Friday, September 5, 2008

They have hat hooks

Only about two days out of Ontario (I spent a good part of one day at Lake Superior...uhm, taking a bath) and one of the Dominican brothers proves correct.

"You're going to miss us", said one especially jovial brother.

With the rare exception of certain devout married couples, religious people who live in orders, be they monks, brothers, deacons, are perhaps the only kind of people who, after only knowing them for two mere days, you suddenly miss like crazy. I attribute it to holiness - and they are just so darn happy, and charitable - which is infectious. A little time is enough for that holy happiness to rub off.

There is something else that is...well, sort of missing - now that I'm just in British Columbia. It's the sort of human wisdom that puts hat hooks on the backs of church pews.

In Ottawa I noticed in the two churches I was in, there were these two-looped hooks on the backs of the pews, beside the hymn book holders - two to each pew. I'm going on a limb and saying they are for hats. They don't have them on the backs of pews here in the west coast.

It strikes me as a small symbol that gives expression to the Francophone culture. I'm going on a limb and saying hat hooks on the backs of pews is a particularly French touch. I'm not sure, but I'm willing to bet they are on the backs of pews all over Quebec. French is of course profuse in Ottawa, and the generally spoken tongue in the Dominican College is French, between the priests and brothers: their daily mass is said in French.

Of course they don't shun the Anglo tongue altogether, as the college courses are taught in English. But getting back to those hat hooks. When you think about it, it is quite an imperative thing. Where is one to place his or her hat when other people are needing to sit in your same pew? They can't sit on your hat. You can't put it on the floor. The hooks are therefore indispensable.

But it seems to me only the French would consider such a predicament and see to its being resolved, due to caring deeply about such things in the first place. And why do they care, rather deeply, about such things, such seeming flourishes and quaint matters? My conviction is that it is for no other reason than this: because not to care about such things would be one step closer to being a barbarian.

And this, I am sorry to say, is where the Francophones have us beat. They have manners, and more than that, they know how important they are. In British Columbia, if you are trying your hand at a church door to get inside and find the doors locked, some stranger across the street on the other sidewalk typically won't gesture to you the direction of the doors of the building that are unlocked and which are the real entrance.

This sort of communal kinship is somehow prevalent in parts of Ontario - though this is to say nothing of the corruption at its core in Ottawa (the youth to my observations seem utterly shameless). I only noticed how prevalent it was in the east, when driving into B.C.

You will notice when driving at night through the B.C. mountains, when the double lane starts to merge back into a single lane, and you slow down to let the semi-trucks go past you so they won't be stuck behind you, the truck drivers here don't blink their rear red tail lights at you as a way of saying thank you in the night. They do in Ontario. Over and over again - all different truckers.

I think that's a French influence. Those human touches that are so vital to retaining an equilibrium, with oneself, and with others. Can't we have hat hooks too on the backs of our pews? Or would that be "a waste of money"? Barbarians.

Driving into B.C. where the autonomous and aggressive spirit is less subdued, it began to dawn on me, even only having been in Ottawa for two days, why the Francophones seem to take pride in remaining ignorant of the west coast.


MichelleLynn said...

In regard to hat hooks on the backs of pews. I can attest that they are in the old churches here in the Detroit, Michigan area. My home parish of St. Gabriel's in Southwest Detroit, built in the 1920's, has them as does Sweetest Heart of Mary Church, built in 1890, in Midtown Detroit. They were put there for men's hats only, as back in the day, women had to have their heads covered when entering church.

I see them as an important part of the church's history.

Itinérante said...

Do you speak French?

Paul Stilwell said...

No, I don't speak it. I know that many where you live speak it. I know no second language.