Monday, January 16, 2017

The Man Who Mistook Someone's Hat For His

Frank Swinnerton, Swinnerton: An Autobiography. Garden City NY: Doubleday, Doran and Company, 1936, p. 28-29 [recalling an incident at a London publishing firm where he worked]—

He [a co-worker named Martin, who was the company cashier] had a very large round head, upon which he wore a great dusty bowler hat; and one Saturday, when everybody but myself had gone home, I was dismayed to find that he had taken my hat and left this monster [his hat] behind. Despair grew when it dawned upon me that the hat came down to my chin. But at last I recollected that Martin was most likely to be found in a local pub, and set out in search of him as Cockney wives sometimes go on Saturday nights in search of their husbands, opening swing doors and quickly scanning the faces in the bar.

My search was brief. He was sitting on a tall stool in the center of the saloon bar of the Essex Serpent, in King Street. In his outstretched arms was a newspaper; a pipe was held firmly in his front teeth; and high upon his big white head, looking in its inadequacy like a thimble, was perched my little hat. I removed it firmly; and Martin was very annoyed, first with me for entering a pub at all, second with himself for having taken my hat, and finally again with me for knowing where he was to be found. Poor man, his life was a misery.

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Note We will add this to our ever expanding collection of stories about those who have mistaken someone else's hat (or other item of clothing) for their own. Go here, for example, for another hat confusion tale by British philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, or here for Mircea Eliade's story about walking off with Claude Lévi-Strauss' raincoat.