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A Man of Many Hats
Reflections on my local curling club
A few years back, I had a brief stint as a curler. Just pick-up league really, nothing fancy. My local club ran mixed-doubles on Saturday mornings back then, and house rules usually paired you up with a different “buddy” each week. While it wasn’t a fool proof method, this shuffle was generally a good way of getting people out of their comfort zones. But there was one cold February morning when I found myself buddied up with the same partner on back-to-back Saturdays. I recall that she was a middle-aged woman who had just joined the club with her husband and teenaged children a week prior. She was quite plain and never seemed to have much to say. Really ever. Except for once. But I’ll get there.
Trying to be cordial, I might have remarked something about us being paired up for two weeks in a row because I remember her sharply expressing that she did not agree. And while I’m not one to argue the point on such small matters, she was not happy that I would make such a truth claim about myself. It was clear that she didn’t at all recognize me from just seven days prior and so she wanted to know why I would assert such nonsense about us having played together before. To my surprise, I found that I was ill-equipped to prove my identity to this woman’s satisfaction. But this is where my memory of her has been anchored ever since — apparently this lapse in judgement was on account of me wearing a different hat.
Finally able to concede that I may, in fact, be who I claimed to be, her defenses were lowered. But when I found myself stumbling to re-introduce myself, she only asked why I had changed my hat. I was dumbfounded for an answer. Why did I change my hat since last week? Really I don’t think that I was consciously choosing to make a statement.
I think I may have feigned a smile in reply.
But it was perceived that I had intentionally laid a stumbling block before her and it was clear that our game could go no further. She stood there pensively, awaiting an answer. Had she changed her hat? I wondered. But this, I could not know. So I finally responded with, I don’t know.
Unsatisfied, the woman quickly followed up with another question. How many hats do you even have? she asked, almost interrogatingly. For some reason I made a knee-jerk reply. Five, I said. I don’t know why I said five. In retrospect, I’m sure I had more than five hats when you count winter and summer together. But I certainly had never taken inventory of them.
But she was astounded.
Woah. she replied with a look of surprise. That’s a lot of hats!
That was it. We started curling and the rest of our communication was mainly relegated to body language. Curling is conducive to that kind of talk if you want. But I never forgot that encounter. To this day, her words rattle around in my brain every time I get a new hat.
Do I have too many hats?
Maybe it was my surprise at how quickly this matter escalated. Maybe it was the lack of closure. But nobody has ever gotten in my head like that.
Anyway, I do recommend that you try curling. Its kind of like a frozen golf culture, but with more interesting characters.
By the way, have you read Frog of Arcadia?
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