John B Keane: women’s coats and hats a tricky subject

I was in the city some years ago to partake of an interview for a job. I was highly unsuccessful and in addition managed to annoy the man who was interviewing me.

I was in the city some years ago to partake of an interview for a job. I was highly unsuccessful and in addition managed to annoy the man who was interviewing me.

I must have mentioned this before, but it is so unusual that it deserves mention again. He asked me if I was prepared to wear a hat. That was too much for me and from there the interview deteriorated into a farce.

However, it has little to do with the story I am now about to relate except that I wanted to give my reasons for being in the city looking for the coat. Ah yes. The coat.

When word went out that I was going to the city a woman came to the house and asked if she might speak to me. Since she was, more or less, a neighbour, I agreed and she unloaded the following.

A coat belonging to her, which she had loaned to a niece was lost. The niece, young and thoughtless, left it behind her in the carriage when a young man she met aboard the train offered her a part of his taxi. Presumably he was a good-looking fellow with a persuasive line of chatter. Anyway what matters is that she forgot the coat.

I was asked if I would be good enough to call at the lost and found department of a certain transport company to enquire if they had been given a coat which was found lost or if they had themselves located it. There seemed to be no problem and I gladly undertook to do the task.

In the city when the interview was over I made my way to the lost and found. On arrival I asked the usual preliminaries and was told to wait while they checked.

It transpired that there were several coats answering the description of the one in question. Now the problem began.

I overlooked to state that when I agreed to bring home the coat I was cautioned as follows by the old lady.

“If,” she said, “they haven’t the coat and they have something like it it would be as gay for you to bring it.”

I was taken to the coat section where a polite bespectacled clerk invited me to have a look at the coats.

“Take your time,” he advised me. I did. I sauntered around examining the various racks and noticed that there were at least seven coats, any one of which might be the one I was looking for. “I think,” says I to the clerk, “that this is the one.”

“Yes,” he said with supreme detachment, “I was thinking it might be.” He asked me to sign a form which I did with a flourish.

As far as I can remember, it was the first time I had signed anything since five years before when I secured an unemployed gentleman for a bicycle.

Having signed I thanked the clerk and took the coat with me. When I arrived home the following day my mother was naturally delighted that I had brought the coat.

She insisted in taking it to the neighbour’s house herself. When she returned I asked if the old lady was grateful.

Not only was she grateful, my mother assured me, but she would pray for me as well.

Time passed and after about an hour the old lady knocked at our front door. My mother answered it and outside I could hear exchanges of a sharp nature.

Apparently, I had brought the wrong coat. Not only that, but it was also several sizes too small. Apparently, if it had been several sizes too large, it wouldn’t have been so bad because you can alter a big coat.

With a small coat there is nothing that can be done apart from giving it to a small person. The old lady told us we could have the coat but we declined on the grounds that it was of no earthly use to us.

“Well,” she said, “it’s no use to me but as little.” We could see that she was determined to dump the coat on us. To preserve the peace we decided to take it. We could always return it if we knew of somebody who would be going to Dublin.

The moral of the story is that a man should never accept assignments of the kind I have mentioned. It is never easy to please women in respect of hats and coats. The thing to do is to let them choose their own coats. They won’t be as discerning but at least they’ll have to shoulder the blame in the end.