The Hat and How to Lose It

posted in: Day In The Life 22
“A hat flying in the wind.” Image: Wikipedia.



After being on the road for almost six days making Quiltfolk’s eighth issue, I was so tired I left my hat in the rental car.

My hat.

The Monte Cristo hat I purchased a year or so ago at Optimo, Chicago’s legendary hat shop. The hat which has come to mean a great deal to me for recently discovered emotional reasons related to my father, who has long had an affinity for a Stetson hat of similar style. My elegant, almost aerodynamic, white Panama hat with the black ribbon which has become an essential tool for me on Quiltfolk location shoots, as keeping the sun off my face and out of my eyes when styling photos outside is critical. That’s the hat I left under the driver’s seat of a Nissan Rogue in the Hertz parking garage on State and Kinzie yesterday afternoon.

And I realized it this morning.

I was writing in my journal about the trip and began to compose a sentence about my hat — and then I froze. My pen hovered over the page. I gasped. My head whipped to the left to look down the hall to my coat rack. No. No, it couldn’t … There was no hat hanging there. My mind raced, thinking back to yesterday and I realized the truth: I didn’t get it out from under my driver’s seat. I got everything out. All the bags, cords, papers, notes, all important objects — except my hat. And I knew it in that terrible moment.

I bolted out of my chair and ran to the computer. I googled the number for the Hertz office. I called and called; no answer, even though the location was supposed to be open. Finally, a harried voice came on the line and I tried to stay calm and explain that I left my heart in one of their vehicles.

“I got a line of customers right now,” she barked. “I’ll ask Jason when I can, but if we rented the car since you returned it, there’s nothing we can do. Try calling back in an hour.”

At that point, I was quietly whimpering. I tried to sit down. I looked at the clock. I’d call in an hour. It was there. It’s a hat, I told myself. Who would want someone else’s hat? Whoever cleaned the car surely found it and put it in the lost and found. It had to be there — and I had to go there.

The last time I got dressed and out the door so fast, I was late for the airport. When I burst out onto the street, I discovered that it was raining. There wouldn’t be cabs on 9th Street, no way. My best bet was to run over to the Hilton and get a cab there; that’s what I did. As we sped north, I hunched in the seat, brow furrowed, every muscle in my body tense and sad. I was so low. I felt so stupid. I loved that hat and I hate how bad I felt about losing it. It’s just a hat, I tried to tell myself, and then a tear would stream down my face like so many raindrops down the taxicab window.

When the girl at the front desk saw me, I blurted out, “Called … about the hat!?” After some discussion, her colleague agreed to take me to the garage to see if anything was still there. The car, it appeared, had not been rented since I returned it — but I didn’t dare hope. It had been 18 hours since my hat and I were parted; who knows how much traffic there had been in and out of that garage. Was there a “lost and found” at all?

We walked up to the man cleaning cars that day. Again, I blurted out words. “Oh, yeah,” the man said, and I noticed the huge gap between his two front teeth. “There was a — ”

“There it is!” the Hertz gal said, pointing to a dingy white ball cap on the top of a rolling cart which I now know is the rental facility’s lost and found department. The girl grabbed it and held it toward me, but I did not take it. I did not take it because it was not my hat. And I did not take it because my hat was on the cart, too.

If the absence of my hat on my coat rack was hideous, its presence on that dirty cleaning cart was magnificent. A light seemed to shine on the thing, that’s how bright and crisp it looked in that garage. I sort of scream-yelped and said, “That’s it! That’s my hat! That’s it! Oh, oh! Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!”

I threw myself on both of them, hugged them both so hard. I nearly kissed their cheeks but with my hat back on my head, it made it difficult and that was probably for the best. I gave the gap-toothed guy all the cash in my wallet, which was $8, and I hugged him again and told him that my hat was a very special hat, that it meant so much to me that he found it and kept it safe. And then I ran out of that garage. I didn’t need to run; I didn’t have anywhere to go but back home. I ran away, away, away from the fresh memory of pain, I guess.

I hopped on a bike-share bike and rode home in steady rain. I was not happy, exactly — I was too drained for that — but my senses were heightened. The smell of caramel corn at the Garrett’s on Dearborn was stronger. The sound of the el sounded bigger.

The rain felt wetter, too, but not on my face. My hat keeps the rain off my face.

22 Responses

  1. Susan
    | Reply

    That was a great true story. Glad you got your hat back.

  2. Kate
    | Reply

    Ah, Garrett’s. I think I could live on their cheese popcorn. Sorry, Mary, I’m not a hat person but I’m a popcorn fanatic. Hadn’t thought of them in years.

  3. Kerry
    | Reply

    I love my Panama hat – a new purchase this spring via my in-laws birthday present money. I don’t like ladies hats because of all the frills. I do like baseball caps (my cousin usually brings over Blue Jays for us from Toronto) to do our long distance walking – currently sporting our county cricket team – they need replacing often because of the yukky salt deposits left after a strenuous walk! But the Panama is lovely and light for summer. Squashable and washable – just as well really!

    But my one thing that I lost and upset me the most was a little felt heart. My husband had a heart attack and was in hospital, thankfully they saved him so he requested books and charger for his phone etc. While I was out getting supplies I spotted a box of felt hearts as it was coming up to Valentine’s Day. We don’t really do much then – our anniversary is a week later. But I took some hearts out of the box and put one in his glasses case, the laptop, little odds and ends for him to find. He gave me one back and I had it in my bag. As I went home that night and took my keys out to get in the car I must have dropped it on the floor. I couldn’t find it. I tipped out my bag, looked around – it was wet and windy and there were still plenty of cars – it had to be under one of those. I was so upset – visiting the next day I went early, saw something red on the ground – it was a sweet wrapper. I was really upset by then and was choking back the tears! I don’t normally get emotional! Especially as I had a whole box of them left at home! So I went in to him and confessed, bursting into tears. He said “oh you dooo love me after all!” WHAT!!! I smacked his hand. And as I got a tissue out of my bag – the little red heart fell out! The very naughty heart that made me cry when I’d searched high and low in the dark and there it was – stuck to the little sealant tab of the pocket tissues! ARGHHHH! I have no idea where it is now – when he went back to work it was popped back in laptops, his car – everywhere that would be a surprise when he opened it up. I believe he has it in his desk along with 2 other main contenders that were rotated.
    And (yes I start sentences with “and” – I rebel a lot) he has made a full recovery with one tiny little balloon that has opened up his artery – a bucket load of tablets and mainly reduced work stress. Apparently it is a family inherited weakness. Now they tell us! So now we are embarking on moving to a most beautiful place in the Devonshire countryside – permanent holiday! As it happens we will be on the Somerset borders – which means a new cricket team . . . and a new baseball cap! 😀

    • Jennifer
      | Reply

      So sweet! I love your story about the hearts just about as much as Mary’s original post!

  4. Ann Bailey
    | Reply

    I’m so glad it worked out Mary….so many things never do…

  5. Becky Allen
    | Reply

    So glad this story had a happy ending! I could feel the anguish you felt over the loss of your hat. I have the same attachment to special items and know the horribleness of loosing them! Love your blog!

  6. Lynn
    | Reply

    Reminds me of the shawl you lost at the airport. But this was a happier ending. I lost a necklace my late grandmother gave me in second grade. Trust me that was a long time ago. Do you know I still long for that necklace and retrace in my mind where I looked for it. I’m sad now just thinking about it. I’m glad you and your hat were reunited. and you will live happily ever after….unless

  7. Janie
    | Reply

    I know the emotions that fill my heart n soul when a precious thing has been lost. Then the triumphant felling when it’a found n in your hands or on the top of your head!!!! Love your blog.

  8. Sandy
    | Reply

    Great story, beautifully written!

  9. Kathy Isaacks
    | Reply

    I could feel your pain Mary. My 12 year old granddaughter from Seattle has an expensive black fedora that rarely leaves her head. Apparently there’s a great hat store in Seattle. Check it out next time you’re there. So happy you were able to retrieve your hat!

  10. Jen
    | Reply

    Thank you for this great true story!

  11. Barbara
    | Reply

    I’m so glad you found your hat! In those few paragraphs, a page of writing, there was so much emotion, so much sharing of you, it almost seemed as if it were a whole chapter in your life. It made me want more and, thankfully, there will be more. I look forward to each of your pages. Thank you.

  12. Kelly Ashton
    | Reply

    Oh, Mary! I’m so happy for you that you and your hat are reunited!!! ❤️

  13. Barbara
    | Reply

    I’m so glad you found your hat! I felt so much emotion in those few paragraphs, that page, so much of you, it felt like a chapter in your life. It made me want more and, thankfully, there will be more because you share of your life with us almost every day. I am grateful. Thank you!

  14. Pam
    | Reply

    How about a photo of “the hat”?

  15. Susan Loretta
    | Reply

    It made me think of a hat I got in Sorrento Italy that I loved. I couldn’t put it in my suitcase home, so had to carry it with me, It went on a bus from Sorrento to Naples, a plane from Naples to Paris, then placns from Paris to Washington DC, then a small commuter plane to Detroit. No hat. I think it got left under the seat of the largest plane, probably in DC. But I hadn’t had it as long as you had yours, so I got over it. Sigh, sniffle, No, not really. There was another too–a big white hat with red streamers when I was about 6. Lost at Niagra Falls. Oh, the hat that gets away! You might go on, but you never forget. Ever.

  16. Irene Ruiz
    | Reply

    Happy ending to a great story. I too own a hat! My husband hates it and I’m always leaving it behind or my husband hides it! But luckily we live in a small town on Whidbey Island, WA and everyone knows me and my hat and they always hold it until I get back to wherever I’ve left it. I have now stapled my card with name and address inside the hat brim just in case I leave it somewhere out of town.

  17. Kathy
    | Reply

    Mary, Oh how you tell a story!

  18. Judy Forkner
    | Reply

    I’m glad you found your hat! My husband has left things in rental cars in our vacation spots, so we have to pay for them to mail our precious item back! So far the lost has always been found!

  19. Bob Collis
    | Reply

    I know the hat from your pictures. So glad you got it back!!

  20. KimS
    | Reply

    I too know your hat from pictures. As bad as it felt when you realized your hat’s plight, it was almost worth it for as good as it feels when something lost is found.

  21. […] vulnerable and open. We know that. I talk about sad stuff and bad stuff and gross stuff. But she bounces back. She’s a total dork, a complete spaz. She has perspective and she knows who she is. I love […]

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