Obituary for a jacket

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“Even the smallest things matter,” Jeff said.

We were in the Kingshead, one of those pubs visited purely for convenience and price, and me and Jeff Green were catching up. The past summer we both worked in same newsroom. Now we lived on opposite ends of the country. Being young journalists, there was nothing better to do then drink cheap beer and talk about writing.

“I was at this seminar, and this guy was talking about how the best questions are sometimes the most innocuous,” he said.

Then Jeff leaned in and widened his eyes slightly.

“That jacket. Why do you wear it?”

It was red and grey and shiny perhaps only once in its life. It had two layers and a hood and a crest. The crest had the Olympic Rings on the bottom, “Vancouver 2010” threaded through the middle, and a peacock on top.

It was also free. You got it when you entered the Olympic Media Centre for the first time, receiving full accreditation from NBC as their employee for the games.

As a 22-year-old, this was amazingly cool for about 86 different reasons. Getting to work the Olympics, in your home city? One thing.

Working for NBC, the network of Hope and Carson and Seinfeld? Of Saturday Night Live and Meet the Press, Tim Russert and Matt Lauer?

It’s possible I was excited.

Those two weeks were a media fantasy camp. I walked the same makeshift hallways as my idols, was paid to watch sports, got to touch the Olympic flame. One day, me and another guy were having lunch. Al Michaels sat down across from us.

“Should we say say hi to Al?” lunch guy says to me.

“I dunno, what would we say? Hi Mr. Michaels…when you said ‘Do you believe in miracles’, that was…that was pretty awesome.”

“Yeah…” lunch guy says. “Yeah…”

Another day, I was walking to my cubicle when a rush of suits came from the closest door, and I suddenly heard Tom Brokaw’s voice.

Because Tom Brokaw was talking. Right next to me.

And I was walking next to Tom Brokaw, who was talking with the unmistakable voice that millions of Americans had gotten their news from for years, and Tom Brokaw kept talking, and I kept walking, and suddenly I was 50 metres past my cubicle.

Meanwhile, Canada was winning gold medals and Vancouver was having an explosion of festivities that won’t be seen here again.

The games ended, the flame got extinguished, the Media Centre became another big building, Vancouver became rainy again. I still had my jacket.

“And you wear it every day?” asked Jeff.

Well sure. Why not wear the same jacket every day? It’s not like it’s a pair of socks. Right?

People never understood this answer. People didn’t get it in Grade 11 or in sophomore year though, so I was non-plussed.

It probably started when I was in Kindergarten. I was enrolled in a private school, which is seemingly the only place where five-year-olds wear blazers and ties and white collared shirts every day. You get used to wearing the same thing continually. And if you get used to wearing the same thing, and the concepts of “fashion” or “trying new things” strikes disdain into your heart, then you keep wearing the same thing.

Where it’s somewhat socially acceptable. Like with jackets. Simple. Efficient. Get one with two layers, it becomes easy to bulk up or slim down as the months turn. Add a sturdy hood, and it works like a charm from October-April.

Which is why I wore the blue and red jacket through three years of elementary school, and the same neon 80’s Whistler Blackcomb ski jacket though high school (“Justin’s amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”, one biology teacher called it), and the same puffy pea green winter jacket in the early years of university, and then the same NBC jacket for year after that.

The same routines followed. Friends mocking, and me mocking it back. It getting washed somewhat regularly, and then less regularly, and then Justin You Really Should Wash That. People asking if I would ever replace it, and me saying maybe this year, and nobody really believing it.

Because why replace it? It still works, and if anyone is going to judge me because of my choice in jackets, there are 600 other ways I’ll disappoint them. Why would you get rid of a perfectly good jacket? One day, sure, it would go. Another wet season would be here, the jacket worn, with money in the bank. Sweaters and coats and multiple types of all sorts of things could go over the shirt would hold a new appeal, or the idea of appeal, because it was better, or different, or something. Something that wasn’t one jacket.

But today? Today I’ll wear my jacket, because it’s there, and I know it, and it keeps my body warm and the rain off my head and reminds me of things big and small.

So yeah, I wore that coat every day.

Jeff nodded. I smiled. You learn a lot from the simplest questions.

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