By: Matt Gordon
Someone recently gave me a new hat. It is called a trucker cap, I think. My normal headwear is a baseball cap. I don’t know what this says about how I’m navigating life. Is the move from baseball to trucker a promotion? Have I become more rugged perhaps? What I do know is that this development seems to indicate a rather severe dearth in vocationally associated headwear. Is there a cap for plumbers or dentists? Are the heads of accountants laid bare to the elements? Scientists stake claim to the “thinking cap.” Seems odd that the group most hellbent on the material world has headwear that is anything but.
The trucker cap in question is real, very much so. I know because I’ve stared at it for hours, as I do with new things, new styles. Often, I’ve found myself years late to whatever fad is in fashion, for it takes me some time to garner enough courage to wear thick glasses or skinny jeans out of the house that first time. Trying something new is vulnerable and the world lies in wait, “Hey, something is different . . .” your coworkers will say after you get that haircut or wear those jorts. And they don’t say whether the something they are noticing is good. In fact, by their tone and scrunched up faces, one would surmise that what they are noticing is not good—that it reeks of midlife crisis and desperation.
In the privacy of my home, I will chuck caution to the wind and don my trucker hat. I pretend that I am a trucker and that I am, in fact, named Don when I don it. I speak with a southern lilt, some rasp and hidden rage in my road-weary voice. I growl things like, “I’ve seen enough life to know better,” and “I gotta get back on the bump.” I don’t know what the bump is nor if any trucker has ever had to get back on it. But it feels good and right. I fake spit some fake tobacco into a real can of Coke, and I adjust my new cap, while gazing skeptically at my head in the mirror. I hear my wife’s van returning to the garage and I put the hat away, along with
Don—we haven’t quite reached that destination yet.
And this song and dance goes on for days or months or years with every new item that exits the highway to the off-ramp of my life. Whether a cap or car, a shirt or shoes, before making a public appearance, there is a very private feeling out process. Many of my possessions never actually make it to the light. They live, like so many of us, quiet lives of desperation, tucked away on shelves, in closets, only taken out when we are alone. Theirs is an intimate, lonesome existence. Most eventually end up sold or donated, going to a more confident, less neurotic owner.
But today was a liberation day. Andy Dufresne crawled through three football fields of ungodliness to reach the shores of liberty, and today that trucker hat would escape the confines of my home and inner thought-life and, perched upon my modest head, be carried to freedom. It would be Boo Radley taking a stroll, Salinger attending a social; we, together, cap and me, would each, from this day forward, be something entirely new, entirely united. “Here we go, Pard,” I/Don said at the mirror, “We gotta get this load delivered or boss is gonna be something fierce on the other side.”
I turned, heading to the door—a new man in a new hat, ready to take on the world, face the naysayers, and embrace these new wings of mine. I, butterfly, would take flight.
“What are you doing?” my wife had snuck up behind me like a tailwind on the open Tennessee turnpike.
“Just headed to work,” I tried to cover any traces of Don from my startled voice.
What was she up to? What is her game? Instantly with the Agatha Christie stuff. Can’t a hat just be a hat? And so what if it is new—is that so wrong? Does that make me insecure that I have a new hat or something? Some of these people, they just don’t get it. They haven’t seen what I’ve seen, out there on the open roads.
“Yeah, someone at work sent it to me. It is called a trucker hat or something. I don’t know. It fits all right. So, I thought I might wear it today. Seems to match and stuff. Got it a few weeks ago. Just been waiting . . .” I just sort of kept yammering. She stood there eyeing it, a moth to light. Fixated.
Then quiet. The worst kind. The deafening sound of judgment.
“It’s cool,” she offers.
“Yeah? Yeah! All right. Yeah, I thought so. It is called a trucker hat or something. It’s my first one. I don’t know. Sort of thought I might wear it today. Seems to match and stuff. Yeah!”
I began to walk away, engines revving, open road a-waitin’.
“Makes your head look really big.”
Air brakes: ignite. I turn.
With a smirk, she offers: “I like it, but it really makes your head look big! I’m probably just not used to it. Looks good though.”
“Like how big we talking?”
“I don’t know. I’m probably just not used to it. You should wear it!”
She leaves the room.
I find the mirror. I assess the hat, my head, from every angle. If she said it, others will think it. Some might even say it. All day long I’ll be defending my mega-head, like a big rig in zipping traffic, the day will be starts and stops, starts and stops, and me stuck in the middle of it.
“Well, shoot, Pard,” I offer the bigheaded dolt in the mirror, with a spit of chaw.
I remove the hat gingerly, handling it like one handles the ashes of a beloved uncle. One who wasn’t around much because he was out on the open road. But when he rolled into town, he was bigger than life itself, head and all.
With Johnny Cash’s I’ve Been Everywhere playing in my head, I put my trucker hat back in my closet of untried things, and, familiar baseball cap fastened tight, I drive out into the changing world, hoping no one notices.