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Post details: My First Sombrero

My First Sombrero

Life is like a string, a long line of moments bejeweled with beads of shining firsts: the first pacifier, the first homework, the first date, the first car, the first hangover, the first mortgage, the first divorce, the first dentures, the first social security check. As we coast down the freeway of our destiny, some milestones come naturally sooner, some later and some occur randomly in a blatant disregard of the segment we are currently on. For instance man's first sombrero.

Mind you, a sombrero is more than a milestone, and it certainly is more than just an exotic head cover. Depending on your point of view, it is a philosophy, a venue for Gods to get back at you, a commitment to shadows, a portable roof, a source of mischief, but above all - it is a way of life. Kind of like vegetarianism, except much broader.

My escape hatch from the non-sombrero state materialized on the island of Cozumel where - not coincidentally - the sun beats down with the ferocity of a pneumatic hammer 364 days a year. Me and one of my friends wanted to rent bikes there for some tropical joyriding. Little did we know that the Caribbean business cycle is shorter than an average palm skirt. When we arrived at the address we swiped off the Internet just two weeks prior, the bike shop has clearly evaporated, its windows boarded and its next block competitors bursting with schadenfreude and unsolicited service offers.

We thought that this was a sign to abandon the whole bike idea and parted our ways to engage in alternative activities. Thus I found myself strutting down the Rafel E. Melgar Avenue in a scorching heat while our sun screen bottle slept soundly in my friend's backpack somewhere far far away. As I didn't want to double the size of our sunscreen reserves, I decided to resolve the looming sunburn problem in a technologically simpler way and buy a sombrero.

Considering that sombrero acquisition is usually categorized as "Clothes Shopping", the transaction was surprisingly smooth and unscary. I chose a straw model in Mexican national colors, handed the shopkeeper a piece of greenish paper with some numbers on it and stepped into the outside world with an imaginary middle finger stuck firmly at the blazing sun. At least for the first few milliseconds. The Sun got back to me instantly through its close ally - the wind - and taught me a sobering lesson. Buying a fashion accessory that virtually doubles your surface area has serious repercussions in a breezy ocean environment.

Indeed, the moment I stepped out of the shop, my newly acquired hat conceived urgent second thoughts about our relationship and made several vigorous attempts to not remain on my head. Soon I became a minor tourist attraction which was signified by the well meaning honks of passing motorists as I chased the sombrero to and fro along the pavement and sometimes beyond it. Kids on the back seats were ecstatic. If Charlie Chaplin was still alive, his career would be in serious jeopardy.

Thus it was revealed unto me that wearing a sombrero is a privilege which requires certain skills. Man has no natural reflexes for successfully negotiating the finicky air streams of atmospheric convection. All the science of sailing, beating, tacking, reaching, heeling and rigging, which took seafarers centuries to master, had to be learned in a few short hours. I quickly developed unexpected reflexes. Soon I was able to catch my restless sombrero midflight, just fractions of an inch off my skull. If someone had developed catching one's head cover into an extreme sport, I could have considered a spot in the Olympics. Taming the force of the gusting wind was a bit trickier, but eventually I managed to come to an awkward truce with it. Had I had roller-blades I might have even become a self propelled green pedestrian.

As I continued learning the ropes of sidewalk wind-surfing, my sombrero turned its bright side to me and let me appreciate its many benefits. Its sun screening properties were exceptional and I was well on my way to become a minor shade exporter. In high mountains it could also be utilized as a portable medium capacity heliport. Just imagine the additional safety my hat would bring to mountaineers exposed to Nature's whims. I am just not entirely sure if sombreros would be an acceptable attire at the base camp of Nanga Parbat. Plus, in its flipped form, the sombrero could easily serve as an additional life boat, which I was planning to test should our tropical cruise unexpectedly hit a rogue iceberg. Its utility was simply stunning.

Our departure from Caribbean added one little chapter to the Sombrero story. I realized that it did not quite fit in my cabin approved luggage. No human ingenuity could wrangle the beast into my little carry on, which means that I had to portage it through the notoriously suspicious airport security in its most natural way - mounted on my head. That elicited some frowns from the screening personnel and prompted many fellow passengers to demonstrate the extension capacity of their index finger.

The final chapter culminated at the desk of the US Customs Office. A uniformed representative glowered at my sombrero and my sombrero glowered back at him. He was clearly sizing up how many narcotics you could fit in its many nooks and crannies. Judging by the ardor of his scowling, enough to supply a medium size town for at least a month. He asked me to take off my hat and show him the inside. I obliged. He nodded and his swooping rubber stamp branded a fitting exclamation point a few seconds later.

My dear sombrero, welcome to the United States of America!


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