I always feel lost when I’m traveling. Not because I don’t find my way around the city, because most of the times I do. But because I lose my pocket system.
Like many men, I don’t carry a bag with me. No messenger bag, not a back pack, and no man purse. Whatever I think I’m going to need, I carry with me in my pockets.
As long as I can remember, I’ve always had my home keys in my right front pocket, and my money in the left. Anything else that I have to carry around, like my phone these days, goes into the right pocket. In other words, my left pocket is exclusively for my wallet/money clip.
When I’m traveling, I often leave my keys at home, which leaves an empty space in my right pocket, which messes up everything.
The back pockets are simply temporary storage. That’s where I stuff receipts, bus tickets, the little cloth I use to clean my glasses. That’s where I find the used ferry tickets weeks later, and the mushes of pulp, after all of the above has somehow got left there and gone through a wash cycle.
They’re not unimportant, though. On the contrary, back pockets are very important, because any pants that are not suit pants, and don’t have back pockets – any kind – do make your behind look big, and are generally ridiculous.
Back pockets may not be perfect for keeping stuff in on a regular basis, for me anyway. Although, even now traveling in Bratislava, that’s where I stuff the map of Bratislava when I’m out biking.
On top of that, back pockets are coolness itself.
That’s where Fonzie always kept his comb, that’s where Bruce Springsteen has his baseball cap on the cover of the Born in the USA album. People who want to keep their hands in the pockets and still look cool, had better stick them to their back pockets. Front: bumming around. Back: Joe Cool.
When I was 15, and an aspiring hockey player with big dreams, I idolized Wayne Gretzky. But with little access to the NHL, my other idols were players much closer to h me. They played on the men’s team of my club, in the Finnish second division, but for a teenager, they were the role models whose every move was potentially worth imitating.
On and off the ice.
One of the stars on the team was a speedy winger, called Jari Hämäläinen, who later went on to play several good seasons in the Finnish elite league. Of course, I didn’t realize then that he was just a kid himself, just 22, so when he would say a few words to us juniors on his way out from the rink, it was like being touched by the divine.
Jiri, that was his nickname, would emerge from their dressing room, always smiling, his eyes like two straight lines on his face, and walk past the other dressing rooms and drying rooms. He might say something, crack a joke to us standing around, and then he would walk down the corridor into the winter’s night that was as cool as himself.
Always with a pair of brown leather gloves in his back pockets.
The other day, I took the subway to Son and Daughter’s school. I spent the 20 minutes on the train reading a magazine, and as I got back up to the street level, I folded the magazine, and put it in my back pocket, then crossed the street.
The sun was shining, and my step was light because I was feeling good. Cool, even.