I went to a college campus yesterday for a work-related event. It was wet and cold, and I had underestimated my need for a sweater. I usually come well-equipped for the weather. I have a corduroy blazer, gloves, a scarf and a patchwork tweed driving hat. Sometimes I leave them in the car, for fear that others will think it all an affectation, and that I myself am just some sort of anachronism, a pretender wishing he could be at Oxford with Evelyn Waugh, instead of in Birmingham with Auburn and Alabama alumni. And so I left the sweater in the car along with the gloves and the scarf and the hat and it was cold and wet and the best I could do was button my coat and turn up my collar against the wind, like the characters in that Fitzgerald story, “A Diamond as Big as the Ritz.” None of it helped. I was still cold and wet and miserable, too pressed for time to even buy a cup of coffee to warm me up. I walked past the chapel and it was empty, lost my footing on the wet sidewalk and nearly fell. I mutter an expletive and worried that someone (Someone?) heard me before I slipped into the building. I talked with a philosophy professor that I once met at church. We talked about the music on Christmas Eve and its beauty and how he was teaching again soon and I should come and I said I will and good afternoon.
I drove home in the rain and listened to music and talked with my wife. The President spoke and everyone watched but I fell asleep because there was a time when politics was all and still some days it is but it was boring and I was bored. I make at attempt, however humble, to follow William F. Buckley’s view of the happy warrior, taking sides, no doubt, in political matters but doing so with grace and charm and smile. And that is my attempt and I fall flat on my face most days but I suppose I will try again.
But to return to hats and gloves I look at people who brave the winter chill with just a t-shirt and I am confused. It is not for lack of resources or money. Do they not care? Are they tougher than me? Do I feel alright about my lack of toughness in the cold because I like this scarf and when I wear that tweed hat I am not cold and in fact I look a little like my long lost Scottish cousin somewhere drinking Glenlivet and talking about golf in a misty sea town while the fish cooks on the stovetop? Oh I hope so. I will not lie. I chalk it up to not caring. The gentry care and they wear scarves and topcoats and cashmere socks. The middle class has given up, or better stated, they never cared in the first place, and so they muddle through winter in hooded sweatshirts waiting on spring to get here so they can go back to their lives in t-shirts.