Philadelphia Metropolis


What's With the Coat Thing?

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By Phyllis Mass

Apart from the ridiculous "Do you need a bag with that? when buying multiple items (The answer always yes), the question that gnaws at me most is whether Philadelphians are cheap, clueless, or just enjoy being uncomfortable? What is it about checking one's coat at a free coat check for two hours that makes people want to sit on it, and/or fold it origami style and keep it on their laps with or without a giant trapper hat like a cherry on top?  Are they really that cheap or are they doing penance for some inexplicable sin and making everyone suffer along with them?

On a very rainy Friday, this fall, my husband and I had dinner reservations at Meme. We arrived in dripping raincoats, with equally wet umbrellas and several packages and inquired as to where we could check our coats. We were directed to our table for two, no extra chairs, and instructed to hang them on the back of our chairs and stow our belongings "wherever" as there was no coatroom. We looked at each other disheveled, sopping and cranky, made no apologies and left.

Since then, I've made it a point to check out patrons wherever we go in Philadelphia and I am dismayed to report that more than half even at finer restaurants and three fourths at cultural events prefer to cling to their outerwear rather than suffer separation anxiety even for two hours, even to be  more comfortable

Coat Check.jpgLast weekend, I posed the question to Aisha, a hostess at Zama who was at a loss to explain why people did not want to use her restaurant's free coat check. "Maybe they're afraid that we'll loose their coats," she said and then added, "but I don't think that's the reason." When asked whether it was a money issue, she said, "coat check is free."

Aisha also mentioned that people who keep their coats tend to place them on chairs at other tables so as not to be encumbered. "But these patrons are interfering with the seating of others so they either keep their coats with them after I ask them to remove them or they decide to check their coat at that point." At Zama that evening more than half the patrons had their coats slung over the backs of their chairs.

And, it is not age-related. Last week at the Wilma, after much draping of her coat, an older woman sitting in front asked if her coat would disturb me. I replied: "I don't know. Sit down and if it does I'll let you know." At least she was aware that there could be a potential problem. Isn't it nice to be unencumbered while watching a play? Do you keep your coat because you feel the mad crush at the coat room when the play is over will prevent you arriving somewhere two to five minutes later than if you dash right out with coat already in hand? Or are you really that cheap?

Movie theaters do not offer coat checks, which in many instances makes sitting in the lotus position no longer an option. Add to that reduced space taken up by hoods or sleeves of puffy coats that overhang the backs of the row in front, grazing ones knees, playing space invaders and infringing on foreign territory.

Theatergoers in Manhattan check coats and do so in restaurants too. But then they dress so much better than Philadelphians. So maybe that's the answer. When you don't care about how you look, when anything and everything is good enough, you don't mind being uncomfortable, oblivious to the notion that your strange actions could contribute to the discomfort of others.

In this age where everyone is an authority and few ask questions, I see more and more clueless young women wearing coats and skirts with the meant-to-be-removed white X tack still firmly attached. Sport-jacket and suit-wearing young men, there are some, are so designer conscious they want you to know whom they are wearing so they purposely refuse to remove size, fabric content and brand labels attached to sleeve of their garments, leaving them visible for all to be impressed. Those of us in the know can only laugh at such ridiculousness and marvel that no one has explained to these people how things work. Perhaps a YouTube tutorial is in order. This younger generation may be more tech savvy but in the process they have lost compassion and consideration for others, common sense and the idea of what "cool" really is. What's worse is not that they don't know, but that they don't know that they don't know.

(Note: People do check coats at the Orchestra, but then they dress so perhaps there is a direct correlation. If anyone knows the answer or has a theory about all this, please let me know.)


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