Eat at any rural American diner during breakfast or lunch and watchthe gathering flock of not–so–rare, duck–billed, polyester–cotton blendcaps. Catch the colorful group in the wee hours for the best display. They gradually disappear as dusk descends. By nightfall, they'vesettled into murky nesting places.
I recently spotted a large gaggle in a local fast–food restaurant. Surprised, I glanced around the tables, my mouth open and eyes bugged wide. Each of the thirty or so males in the place was wearing a cap! Rememberingthat my opened mouth was filled with breakfast, I quickly shut it and blinkedrapidly to settle my displaced eyes. Feeling like an inept spy, Ihunched my back and took furtive little peeks at the surrounding tables. The not–so–rare species sat quietly, looking like plucked geese incubatingoverly large, hair covered eggs; lanky and long haired eggs, short andtrim haired eggs, even missing (I suspect) on top haired eggs!
Plastered with broadsides, the slick–breasted, poly–cotton birds sportedembroidered patches advertising various wares. A couple of them hawkedchewing tobacco (no pun intended), another a casino, one milk tank, threesports teams, a couch potato, the pleasures of grandfatherhood, the NRA,and the joys of retirement. I figured the fellow in the Florida hathad recently returned from somewhere, and that the leather–necked guy inthe Mack truck hat was bound somewhere.
Sitting at a corner table was a gentleman in a light blue golf cap,its short, crisp brim framing his tanned face. As he walked out ofthe restaurant, I craned my already bent neck to a dangerous angle andwatched him stroll to his motor home. Yep, he was from out of state. Silently, I prayed that he would not be overcome by a subconscious urgeto buy a Petro cap at the truck stop up the road. I rather likedhis natty little chapeau.
In the days following my discovery, I noticed several clever alternativeways to wear the not–so–rare species. Style variations seemed tochange according to age, location, ethnic identification, MTV and peerpressure. Generally, the adult male positions his cap over his headwith the dominant hand, places the fingers of the other hand over the elastic,or plastic, expansion band, and with the dominant hand pulls the brim neatlyinto place, brim forward, a military hold–over. Native Americanswear theirs covered in beads. Rap musicians and gang members weartheir hats with the brims backward. I suppose that makes sense becauseit shades the posterior–crack peeking over the waist of their baggyjeans. God forbid they should get butt–burn.
Teen girls wear their caps sideways, thereby preventing the brilliantflash from those door–knocker earrings from blinding the cop sitting inthe coffee shop across the street. I think the award for ingenuityshould go the young teen boy who wore his cap inside out, brim back with the small white union–made label fluttering between his pale eyebrows. Talk about having it all!
If you're ever lost and find yourself really, really rural you mightstill see a brim flipped up, ala "Gomer Pyle". But you would probablyneed to walk a lot of back forties to find the one guy left in Americawho's still wearing it that way. He'll be the one bent over his antiquatedtractor, cap bill snapped out of the way to enable his failing eyesighta closer look at the engine. Even rural America has access to overa hundred satellite television stations, so country residents are often seen wearing city–twisted caps.
Not–so–rare caps fill countless closet shelves, litter thousands ofcloset floors, lines pegs in the hallway and the back window ledges ofcars. Some people collect the caps, having literally hundreds ofthe advertising bonnets tacked to their walls. Thousands upon thousandsare trampled on truck floors each day. I've even used the cotton–polyspecies to wedge open the back door on a breezy afternoon. In a pinch,I've pulled a tattered cap from under the car's front seat and used itfor scraping frost from the windshield.
My hat loving husband yelps, "Stop!" It's just a stupid hat, I'mthinking. Unable to reply through my blue frozen lips, I give hima stare that would freeze a melon in Miami. He fails to notice. The fraying brim of his Winnie–the–Pooh cap shades his eyes.