Sunday, March 1, 2015

All about the Hat

It's a snowy day here in Bexley, Ohio, where we are visiting for a short weekend.  Rose and I walked down to the local coffee shop (well, not really: it's a Starbucks, now that the Bexley Cup O'Joe has closed), First, though, I ducked into the new car to grab my hat.

I think I've mentioned the hat before: it's a black wool felt fedora with a wide-ish brim. Nothing special or expensive, but also not a polar-fleece cap.

And it was a good thing I grabbed it, as it snowed steadily the whole way to Starbucks. Which reminded me of what I usually say when some stranger or passerby compliments my hat: It keeps the rain off. Or, in this case, snow.

And then I told Rose about an odd conversation I had a few days ago. I was placing my order at the Blue Moose (the Morgantown coffee shop I usually hang out at after making a delivery to the post office) when the barista asked me what my name was. I told her, and she said "I'm glad to know, because I couldn't just keep calling you 'Hat-Guy' in my mind."

Rosemary laughed, and called me "Old School," but with the kind of anxious laugh that let me know that she was equal parts amused and afraid that I was getting a reputation as a local character: "Hat-Guy." So, in an attempt to stave that anxiety off, I reminded her of another hat-related conversation I'd had at the Blue Moose in recent months.

It was a rainy day and I walked into the Moose and one of the other "regulars," who looks like he might be one of the homeless folks who also hangs out there, said, "Nice hat." I replied (as is my habit), "It keeps the rain off." He told me I ought to go have it waterproofed at the local shoe-repair place, adding, "Tell them Backpack Jack sent you."

Somehow Rosemary wasn't comforted by this anecdote, or my remark that at least "Hat-Guy" wasn't a name I'd adopted for myself, as was Backpack Jack's. She countered that I didn't know what people in the Blue Moose might call me when I'm not around.

Apparently my hat is just the nickname-attracting sort of hat, now matter how much I think it's all about the weather. But if you see me wearing it, I'd probably rather go with Old School than Hat-Guy. If you have to choose.


--S. said...

I think both "Hat-Guy" and "Old School" are excellent, personally. One is about a thing you have, and the other is about a thing you are; taken together, I think you get a picture of the best kind of local character, the feller it's kind of reassuring to see ambling around town.

Rosemary said...

See, I don't really *want* Tom to become that "feller [you] see ambling around town," though I suspect it's already happened. I know: as a folklorist, I should embrace (if not encourage!) him to morph into a local character.

--S. said...

Well, I'd focus on the "reassuring" part more than the "character" part, but I can definitely understand how it's jarring to get that kind of externalized view of yourself.

It's not quite the same thing, but every now and then I get a hint of what my reputation is at work, and it's always startling. I'm gradually coming to realize that I should just embrace that, even as it feels wrong and contrary to my sense of myself.

Rosemary said...

Yes, I think one of the things I've learned in the last few years is that you really have no control over the stories that people tell about you, and that that's a good thing, really. Even if it is, as you say, startling.

Speaking of stories: Tom was at the public library's book sale yesterday, and a reporter from the local paper took a photo of him and asked him a few questions. Then the guy asked for Tom's name, which he provided. I told him he should have said "Just call me 'Hat Guy.'"