It feels lazy and whorey to re-post the Park City Cowboy Hat episode, which happened three and half years ago, in December 2008. But re-posting anything is kind of whorey. And even I still laugh at this: “Me to Star Hotel proprietor: “I found a place in Park City but I can’t move in until Friday the 16th. Would you let me crash on the living-room couch for the first two nights (1.14 and 1.15)? Which I’ll pay you for, of course. It would be greatly appreciated if you could grant me this small favor, as you left me in the lurch this year.
“I thought I’d made it clear as a bell that I intended to return, having stayed in your wonderful abode the last two years and leaving my cowboy hat there and telling you I’d wear it when I returned in ’09 and so on. Anyway, can ya do me this one?”
Followup #1 / “Wells to 62 Lincoln and the others who don’t get it: Yes, yes…if I’d left a cash deposit or a credit-card number then the room would have been assured. I’m not an idiot. But leaving the cowboy hat and plainly stating to the proprietor that I’d come back and wear it the following year (especially after having stayed at the Star in ’07 and ’08 and been part of the family there, in a sense) was a very emotionally vivid and pronounced way of stating my intentions. It was a message that is recognized by everyone all over the world. It’s even recognized in the animal kingdom (i.e., leaving your scent on a piece of turf).
“If you go out with a girl and she comes home with you and stays the night and she leaves her underwear or bra or socks in your bedroom after she leaves the next morning, we all know that’s a universal message that says, ‘I want to come back and get to know you better and probably have sex with you again.’ Everybody knows that. Leaving an article of clothing, something with your scent and paw-prints and sweat residue on it, means that you intend to come back and spray your scent around some more.
“If you were to see a 1930s Gary Cooper western and hotel manager Frances Farmer, giving him the old twinkle-eye, asked him if he was coming back after taking his cattle to market, and if he faintly grinned at her and took off his cowboy hat and left it hanging on the wall as he walks out the door, everybody watching the film in any country in the world would know exactly what that means. It would be crystal clear. So don’t tell me. Credit cards are well and good, but to say left-behind cowboy hats and such mean nothing is to be way too ‘dollars and cents’ about this matter.
Followup #2 / “Let me try again and this will be the end of it. The Star hotel is a b & b — not a hotel. I stayed there in ’07 and ’08 and was very happy and content to do so. Carol Rixey, who’s been running things until this year (when her son took over), runs it quietly and efficiently, but it’s a homey little place with family pictures and little knick-knacks on the walls. She serves breakfast in the morning, there are always potato chips and pretzels and cheese squares on the kitchen table, and if you’re feeling sick with a fever Carol will sometimes offer you a homemade remedy or a first-aid pack that she keeps in a box near the front entrance. She makes you feel as if you’re staying in someone’s home that happens to function as a hotel.
“And things are very nice and personal there. There are visitors who fit in and those who don’t. You have to be a mellow, quiet, laid-back type in order to be the former. And while Carol is a Texan she kind of reminds me of my grandmother (my mom’s mom) in a tough way. She’s no softy and won’t take any guff, but she’s maternal and caring in her way. And I came to feel very cared for there. I could talk to Carol like she was family and vice versa. And she has good wifi there!
“So when I said to her last year that I’d like to leave my cowboy hat there so I could just pick up in ’09 where I left off in ’08, I was obviously saying to her (in my head at least, and I can’t imagine how she could have interpreted this any differently) that I’d like it very much if she could be a nice and considerate grandma and hold my hat for me, and that I’d be back to stay the following year. Simple and quite clear all around. I trusted her to get what I meant because, I figured, she surely recognizes the trust and affection that we’ve had between us over the past two years.
“But now things have ended badly. Very badly. I just heard from Carol that she considers my having discussed the matter in the column to be a form of blackmail (an hysterical interpretation, in my view) and that she’s given my hat to the Park City police and that I can pick it up there when I get to town. The fuzz, for God’s sake! She’s brought the cops into this! Talk about a violation of the trust that comes with friendship and the values of good grandma-hood! The idea that nice people can turn around and suddenly act erratically and illogically (to put it in gentle terms) is not a very pleasant one, but obviously it happens. Good God.”