TravelingWithAHat

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" … at least in his own dazzled eyes, he looks absolutely marvelous."

Let's imagine that you're a gentleman of a certain age and that you're traveling. It's a common sight anywhere that tourists gather to see a gentlemen, even one wearing Oompa-Loompa cargo shorts, wearing a cap, a ball cap or a long-brimmed fisherman's cap featuring a Velcro® tightening strap around back. This casual headgear has become ubiquitous and hardly elevates a gentleman beyond the status of gardener, not that gardening's an ungentlemanly occupation. But when strolling the promenades of, let's say, Paris, what gentleman aspires to exude the presence of a rose trimmer or, excuse the expression, a Weedeater® operator? Few, I deign. A gentleman properly wishes at these times of promenade, to appear every bit the gentleman he probably wishes he actually was but knows himself to not be. These times demand a proper chapeau, perhaps a finely-woven palm Panama fedora, and finely-woven Panama fedoras are by nature fragile things.

When I bought mine, I asked the clerk if it was one of those Panamas I'd seen advertised as capable of being rolled up and stuffed in odd corners. He paled at my mention.
Of course not! This was woven by Central American natives, imported to the US, then painstakingly shaped by a master hat maker into its one and only true shape, the one it held at that moment. It would hold that shape for a hundred years, but not if it was ever rolled and stuffed in just any odd space. This hat would demand proper tending.

Proper tending might have been much easier in times when a tour might have properly included a dozen steamer trunks, one of which would most certainly have included a collection of correct hat boxes, each holding its contents in its proper shape regardless of stormy seas or well-rutted roadways. Now, nobody would recognize a proper hatbox, let alone struggle to carry one onto an economy flight to Wichita, much less, to The Continent. Now, one travels with one proper hat, and one wears that hat on top of one's head unless and until inside. Then, a proper gentleman removes his hat, carrying it casually in his dominant hand to demonstrate respect for a place and its denizens. Or, that gentleman finds a proper place to store that hat until he returns outside, hanging it on a proper hat hook which he only rarely finds, or placing it snap brim hanging over the side of an otherwise unused side table, even a non-dusty shelf. Places rarely provide proper hat storage for any visiting gentleman.

Airliner overhead compartments most certainly do not constitute anything like proper hat storage, but a traveling gentleman frequently finds himself relegated to utilizing simply that unsuitable space. Then, he will build a careful nest between rollaways and knapsacks, creating a safe cavern of sorts, shutting the cover, then watching that space like a paranoid hawk for the duration of the flight, for some late arriver might, with casual disregard, blindly cram a sweaty dufflebag in on top and partially through said fine hat, crushing it underneath. A fellow passenger might alternatively rise mid-flight to rummage through their carryon and inadvertently crush said chapeau in the offing. A gentleman will be often heard to say, "Mind the hat," eliciting questioning, generally unhearing, glances. Most people fail to look very scrupulously before they shuffle overhead compartment contents.

A gentleman has been known to simply and quite humbly carry his hat in his lap through the flight lest it be sacrificed on the alter of some lesser god searching for his headset during the course of the flight. Only about half of the adult population can even see into an overhead compartment, and so they blindly stuff and cram, never, in these backward times, imagining a delicate treasure lying within. A gentleman, traveling with proper gentlemanly headgear, becomes a fussy hen of a man, infinitely wary, almost paranoid in his countenance, hardly a gentlemanly countenance. For the deep satisfaction of strolling down Saint Michel properly attired, he will have become a jittery auditor of all those around him and appear to suffer from some obsessive-compulsive disorder. Any ball cap-wearing more manly man would look on with undisguised distain, though the proper gentleman will not notice. Eyes forward, secure in his own rather quaking manhood, he will stroll, knowing deep down, that at least in his own dazzled eyes, he looks absolutely marvelous. Nuthin'Special to see here.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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