The bright jacket

Fri, 02/03/2017 - 11:15am

A month ago I was strolling around a West Marine store looking at stuff for our sailboat. There was nothing the boat needed, yet — she’s tied to her winter dock in Newport; however, burning up the clock while looking at boat stuff is more fun than looking at stuff at a place like the Christmas Tree Shop. Just sayin’.

The bride will sometimes joke with me and say, “Hey, I have an idea. Let’s go to the Christmas Tree Shop and we can buy some knickknacks that we don’t need — we’ll just browse for a few hours or so — then we can go look at furniture.” For this geezer, the aforementioned is a level of hell that Dante wasn’t capable of ever imagining. Yup, the bride is a real comedienne.

While heading for the door of West Marine, I happened to glance at a rack of foul weather gear, and then, bingo; there hung the brightly colored rain jacket born from the cosmic convergence of need, pricing, and practicality — a veritable shopping trifecta. Win, win, win! There are times when things find us — we all know this axiom — and this was such a time when the stars lined up perfectly, and served a hapless shopper with no agenda. Furthermore, to add to this deal-in-progress, a cursory glance noted taped seams inside the jacket, ample zippered pockets, and a hood. And, the price was right.

After grabbing an extra-large slicker this happy shopper quick stepped to the cashier and pulled out the plastic. “Would you like a bag,” asked the cashier. “Nope,” I said, while ripping off the price tag and putting said slicker on over my fleece — it had just started raining. This was a prime example of purchasing perfection.

When working at the docks I have a reflective vest that is worn for safety reasons. These days being visible at my job is a necessity — safety first — and an act of self-preservation. Sometimes folks come to the ferry dock and they are either talking on their cellphone, or texting. Also, some of these folks are fixated on the ferryboat and their destination, and not necessarily the guy who is checking in the cars. As a result I play defense and wear a reflective vest to cue the drivers to slow down when entering the ferry staging area. This new slicker I stumbled upon through happenstance is a clear cue for the drivers, and safety is a loud and clear message. Moreover, wearing this jacket for the early morning winter trips ratchets up safety issues at that dark and ungodly hour of 0530.

Since I’ve started wearing this new bright jacket I’ve received several compliments — from both men and women — along with inquiries as to where I bought it. (The same thing happened when I bought my first Tilley hat —another practical purchase). People say stuff like: “Hey, like yer jacket,” “Cool color,” “Wherdjagetit?” “Gotta get me one of those,” and I even got the ultimate guy compliment from a smiling, and seemingly coquettish woman, “It looks good on you, and you wear it well!” Hey, a geezer likes an unsuspected compliment, too. It’s pretty funny how a simple piece of foul weather gear speaks to a certain market. Go figure.

There is no mystery to the appeal of the bright jacket. We see these things on policemen, firemen, construction workers, and school bus monitors. While crossing the Pell Bridge we’ll see men and women wearing these jackets while directing traffic during construction. This is a dangerous job even when drivers reduce their speed. I’m sure these folks see people gabbing and texting as they pass by while they’re totally unaware of their surroundings. When crossing the bridge I make it a point to not only slow down for these folks, but to also gesture to them as an acknowledgement of the fact that I see them — they always return the nod — it’s a simple sign of respect. It’s also a nod toward their safety.

As stated earlier this bright jacket was purchased through happenstance, and from a position of practicality. The jacket blocks the wind, sheds the rain, and makes the wearer a big unmistakable target for oncoming traffic. Chris Argo, a driver for Arnold Lumber, said, “I see people texting and talking all of the time while they’re driving on the highway, they’re not looking where they’re going.” Other truckers heading to the island say the same thing — they see this kind of thing all of the time. The fact is, some people get dialed into their gadgets. Subsequently, this means that we all need to be playing defense while driving on the road — or walking in a parking lot. It’s a jungle out there, and we must be vigilant.  

It just so happened that the day I bought the bright jacket we were watching the evening news. There was a segment that dealt with the percentage of pedestrian accidents that happen in the parking lots of supermarkets and big box stores. It’s a numbers game; as urban areas expand the motor vehicle traffic increases. The report also noted that the causes for accidents were blind spots, congestion, and distracted drivers. Sadly, some of the accidents have ended in fatalities.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, “Around 20 percent of all motor vehicle accidents occur in parking lots.” Finally, and most importantly, the nicest thing about the bright jacket is that it is lightweight, durable, and can be worn in all seasons while doing my job at Paradise Alley. ‘Nuff said.