In the winter, having your coat with you and, more important, getting it back after you deposit it somewhere is something you take for granted.
But anyone who has had the experience of leaving their coat on a rack or at a coat check and then finding it has disappeared when they go back for it…oh, my. It’s as bad as losing a wallet or a wedding or engagement ring.
The worst feeling when a winter coat disappears is when you think someone has stolen your coat. I mean, this is not just a piece of personal property, it’s your shield from the cold, your comfort from the biting wind, your cherished wrap that accompanies you on expeditions short and far and is always there for you.
But sometimes, unfortunately, coats disappear. And that’s just what happened on New Year’s Eve at a big party at the Wheeler Downtown Airport. Here’s what happened, as The Star reported on Saturday:
About 1,500 people paid $100 each to attend a fund-raising party for the National Airline History Museum. Good start, right? But it didn’t take long for disappointment to set in. The party promoters and organizers ran low on food and drink. Bad sign right?
And then, as the mood almost certainly turned sour because of that, people started heading for the exits.
As they went to the coat check station to get their coats, however, many people discovered, to their chagrin, that their coats weren’t there. Nowhere to be found.
One man, Matt Lugo of Blue Springs, told The Star’s Don Bradley:
“We checked four coats and they gave us three back. The missing one was my wife’s. A wool overcoat, a gift from her family. She was pretty upset.”
Museum officials told people to send in a picture of their missing coat. One man said, “I just got it for Christmas — I don’t have a picture of it.”
One woman who attended the party, Vinur Kaul, told KSHB, Channel 41, news that she was so frustrated with long wait times for a parking-lot shuttle bus, as well as the coat check and the bar service, that she and her fiance left well before midnight.
John Roper, the museum’s vice president of operations, acknowledged “problems” with the event and told Bradley that “an investigation” was underway.
The museum posted a statement on the Facebook Event Page that said, in part:
“We ask those who may have mistakenly taken the wrong coat or an additional item by mistake to please return to us so that we can get it to its rightful owner. We appreciate your patience and cooperation in this effort.”
What a sorry situation. What a debacle.
I was the victim of a coat theft just once, as I recall. And that occasion, which occurred more than 50 years ago, I remember like it was yesterday.
In my youth, several Catholic parishes in Louisville, where I grew up, threw mixers for teens, usually on Sunday nights. One church known for having very good mixers — that is, with a lot of girls attending — was St. Raphael. Its mixed was called “Sa-Ra-Teen.” My home church, St. Agnes called its events “Senga.”
On night when I went to Sa-Ra-Teen I had a brand-new, tan trench coat, which my parents had bought me. I mean not more than a week old. It was a primo trench coat made by the one and only London Fog, a brand that spoke of class and social acceptance.
(According to Wikipedia, two-thirds of all raincoats sold in the United States in the 1970s were from London Fog.)
Anyway, I hung my newly cherished coat on a coat rack in a corner of the school’s event space. I remember putting it on a hook, along with dozens of others on other hooks, without making any attempt to put it under other coats or in some relatively remote location. (That’s one of those things you learn with experience.)
When I went back to the rack at the end of the evening — I was one of the last to leave — the coat was gone. I knew exactly where I had put it, and it wasn’t there. I rooted through all the remaining coats, but it wasn’t there. The coats that remained were pathetic — nothing like my crisp, unblemished London Fog. I went out into the cold and went home — maybe my father picked me up — brokenhearted. My father took the news well. He didn’t get mad, didn’t obsess on it (like I would, if it was one of my kids) and didn’t even call the church the next day (as I would have done). It was no use; the coat was gone; someone else was wearing that beauty. If Dad had obsessed about it — and maybe he understood this — it would have made me feel even worse than I did. I never forgot his even-keeled reaction, even though that was an expensive coat, by 1960s standards, and it was a monetary loss that stung our middle-class family.
So, I sympathize and empathize with the folks who had their coats lost or stolen at Downtown Airport. What a disheartening, upsetting way to start the New Year. I feel their pain and frustration.
The Downtown Airport coat debacle immediately reminded me of an unusual coat incident that occurred in the 1970s in Independence.
The central figure in this episode was a man named Dick King, who, I believe was Independence mayor at the time — a fact that made this not only more bizarre but also newsworthy.
King and several other people went to the old Zuider Zee restaurant on Noland Road one night and found there was a relatively long wait to be seated. If King tried to use his mayoral status to get his name to the top of the list, it didn’t get him anywhere. Then, buoyed by alcohol, he went to the coat rack, swept up a large armful of coats and headed out the door. I don’t know what, if anything, his companions did or said, but, at any rate, King got out on I-70 and started flinging the coats out of the car.
The Star reported later that at least a few of the people who had their coats stolen got them back. I don’t know what shape they were in, but at least they got them back.
King later acknowledged that he had a drinking problem and cleaned up his act. He went on to become one of Kansas City’s leading development attorneys. He unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 1991, the year that Emanuel Cleaver was elected to the first of his two terms.
In 2006, King died of cancer at age 62…The coat theft, of course, was not in his obituary. But I’ll tell you this, anyone who was involved in local politics in the 1970s remembers the infamous Dick King coat caper at the Zuider Zee.