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Friday, February 09, 2007

Why I am still looking for my blue overcoat

By Dick Hirsch

When the serious winter weather arrives, I always start looking for my blue overcoat. My chances of finding it are remote because I gave it away several years ago. But I keep looking for it anyway, and that’s part of the story.
Like many personal items, that coat has a history, a history that includes some moments worth remembering. Let me first set the scene by describing the coat. It was a heavy wool, double-breasted Navy blue with those shoulder epaulets that are identified with the style that I recall is sometimes described as a British Warmer.
I purchased it during that misguided period of my life when I wore a jacket and tie to the office absolutely every day. This was a dressy coat and I think it helped me convey---or try to convey---a businesslike demeanor.
The actual purchase was memorable. We had flown to Montreal for two reasons: it was to be a weekend getaway and it also was to provide an opportunity to do some surveillance and gather some first hand information for a story on how they clear the snow from streets and walkways. Montreal has a well-earned reputation for giving winter a quick brushoff, dealing with snow very efficiently. It was February and there was ample snow being blown about by insistent gusts.
After a busy weekend, we were flying back on Monday afternoon, so we spent the morning browsing around the downtown area, where they have a busy retail district both above and below ground. I recall pausing outside an aboveground men’s shop with a large sign announcing WINTER CLEARANCE. I usually avoid men’s stores in Canada because I don’t appreciate their styles, but something must have caught my attention because I went inside.
I should mention that I was wearing a camel color overcoat that had logged considerable miles, still wearable, but no longer very impressive. Before long I was back in the coat section, checking the stock, and eventually trying on the blue coat. One look in the full length mirror, and it was over. Navy blue will do that for any of us. But the sleeves were too long and it was already 11:45 and we had a 2 o’clock flight. I explained the problem to the salesman.
“No problem,” he said. “Go have lunch while we shorten the sleeves.”
That’s how it worked out. Alterations that usually take a week were completed in 45 minutes. We went back to the hotel after lunch with the new coat, picked up the suitcases, and were ready to go to the airport. But was I going to schlep two coats? No.
So I went down to the lobby, folded the old coat very carefully, and draped it neatly on one of those overstuffed chairs in the lobby. Then I left, always wondering how long it would remain there and who would eventually notice it, claim it, and walk away with it.
I wore the blue coat home and wore it successfully for several winters. With its Canadian heritage, the coat was manufactured of material that was soft but dense, with a remarkable ability to repel the winter winds that are so familiar to Buffalo people. Yes, I occasionally had the impression I was slightly overdressed, but I tried to ignore the feeling because I realize Navy blue can have that affect.
As my dress code evolved toward the casual, suits succumbed to sweaters and the coat was no longer appropriate. I gave it to the son of friends, then a college student, who explained the latest collegiate trend was wearing used bulky overcoats, often obtained from a thrift shop, to go with their jeans. He took it back to campus and I was delighted that it would have a new life in an uplifting university atmosphere.
It didn’t work out. He kept it for one winter, but on his return home, he called and said he was going to return the coat because it “just wasn’t right.” I suppose it was the Navy blue issue again. I hung it in the closet, and wore it one last time the following year, although I knew our long relationship was ending. As January approached, I dropped it off at the Friends of the Night People. I’m sure they found a person to wear it. Although I keep looking for the coat, I haven’t seen it yet, but I know it still has the ability to keep a person warm.



At 2:31 PM, Blogger Brian said...

Sounds like a nice coat.


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