If you're in your fifties, you'll forget a few things, and that means you'll leave your coat behind on days when the weather is so unreasonably nice that you forgot you brought it.
But if you leave your coat somewhere, take my advice: don’t do it in a neighborhood where the average person has a post graduate degree in art history, designs her own software and reads Kahlil Gibran in the Laundromat.
The sense of personal inadequacy is amplified when you are surrounded by such can-do ambition. So, into the coffeehouse I ventured, with the sky darkening and the temperature rapidly leaving the comfort zone that four hours earlier had made me forget that my coat existed. This was one of the Highlands’ most bohemian coffeehouses -- I mean, laptops on each table and fair trade salt in every shaker.
So to avoid that helpless feeling – like we all had in the first grade when we interrupted the adventures of Tom, Betty and Susan to ask the teacher to take us to the bathroom -- I scouted for a spot to discreetly inquire whether my coat in fact had been turned in.
No such quiet place was to be found. And at the counter, I waited behind a man telling the woman making his latte of his upcoming academic plans, and – just to remind me of my socially inferior position that moment – used the word “Fellowship.”
Ah, an education. The one thing that can’t be taken away from you -- because you can’t walk off and leave it because you have forgotten you have it.
What school, she asked. North Carolina-Asheville, came the answer. Okay, that’s not exactly going to Harvard. But it’s not exactly going up and down Baxter Avenue bare armed as the temperature keeps dropping and you start to look like a statistic for the next Metropolitan Housing Coalition annual report.
No, this coffee house didn’t have any coat. Next stop, the pizza-by-the-slice place where I had eaten lunch. They know me by name there – because when you’re a relatively new business, there is an economic incentive to display remarkable memory skills before your customers – not realizing you are reminding them that their own are diminishing.
Knowing that this compact eatery is always busy, I gave up thinking I could ask without drawing attention, so I considered rolling with the punches by using a self-effacing, “Did some incompetent, hapless person leave their coat here today?”
No, quit trying to be Rodney Dangerfield, I decided. I just asked the guy behind the counter -- straightforwardly. He checked around there. He checked the closet. He checked the basement.
Nope. I left through the same door where twice I had seen store employees escort panhandlers out last winter. Those were pathetic scenes. Those gentlemen had no dignity as they left.
And as I walked out, I displayed the same slumping posture and uncomfortable self-consciousness they had those nights. About the only visible thing I didn’t have that they did was a coat.
I was down to one place left to check. I had used a computer in the Mid City Mall library that day.
Since everyone in a half-dozen neighborhoods heads there when they want some quiet reading, or when their computer is kaput, I collapsed into utter hopelessness when the man behind the counter came back from the lost and found room empty handed, knowing how many people had hours of unfettered access to my poor coat and, more importantly, my, uh, best friend --- some indispensible psychoactive medicine I have taken daily for 14 years (Yes, I’m a true Highlands resident).
But in a discovery my first significant other back in the ‘80s would have described as proof of the almighty, 30 feet away from the counter, there was my coat, draped over a chair I had used.
And the friend I can’t live without was still in the pocket, un-pilfered by any junkie or neighborhood teen whose parents were out of town and who might have decided he had stumbled upon the perfect way to spice up his party that started in a few hours.
Notwithstanding my ex’s zeal back in the ‘80s, I’m going to side with the many atheists whose Facebook threads have evangelized that random chance, not any deity, explains fortunate turns like this one.
God was just too busy that night with many human needs not the result of somebody’s absent mindedness and I don’t think she wants to answer prayers: “I know you asked me to stop wars, starvation and your uncle’s fatal illness, and I would have liked to. But you see there was this coat….”
Nonetheless, I am grateful. So, wherever the god of random chance is: Thank you.
George Morrison, who lives in the Highlands, will certainly survive the winter nicely, as the chill will prevent him from forgetting his coat. He read this piece Nov. 19 at Third Friday, a monthly open microphone gathering at Day's Espresso on Bardstown Road held there each third Friday night.
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