person to person — impact: Voted Most Utilitarian

I am on probation! I’ve been told that more and more copies of the Tri County Record are being sent back to the printer. I have no idea why, except that my boss has pinpointed my articles as the culprit. No hints or clues were given to me. I am in a state of consternation. In order to save my job, I have offered a bonus to my employees, Beetle Bailey and Miss (Ladybug) Victoria Witherspoone, to come up with a solution. After several weeks of investigation, they reached a conclusion that possibly my columns are not serious enough. Therefore, after much study, I have decided to report to you on the importance of the: kerchief, hanky, hankie, handkerchief, handkercher. For ease of reference, I will from now on refer to this hemmed square of thin fabric, roughly 15 inches square, as a handkerchief.

Did you know that the handkerchief could be considered more valuable than a new automobile? There are innumerable makes and models of cars that we choose from. The main problem with autos is your choice may be predicated on cost, gas mileage, how it rides, trade in value, accessories, cubic feet of storage, number of passengers it will hold and a slew of other factors. The handkerchief, which predates autos by hundreds, if not thousands of years, has so many uses, no wonder it has at least five names.

The auto serves one main purpose: to transport people or goods from one place to another. We all know the handkerchief is used for personal hygiene to wipe ones hands, face or nose. However, that’s just the beginning of its uses! These utilitarian pieces of cotton, silk or linen can be used as decorative articles. Men who are in the “limelight” or are just snappy dressers show off their fine handkerchiefs by having them stick out of their suit coat pocket. Wikipedia lists 13 different ways to fold your handkerchief to impress those people to whom you are talking to show off your social economic class. I thought it would be interesting to see how many handkerchiefs I owned. In searching through my pants pockets, suit jackets and rummaging through my dresser drawer, I came up with 21, all of them are white, except for three that have blue lines on them. I assume the three that have blue on them were to really impress someone when I sneezed because all of them are plain cotton and I have never worn them in my suit coat pocket to impress anyone. Please don’t take offense at this. If you wear a fancy handkerchief in your suit coat pocket, great for you! Unfortunately, I’m just a “vanilla” person.

One of the useful things my father taught me was to always carry at least one clean handkerchief in my left-rear pants pocket. I caught on quickly and this habit has really paid off. In taking an inventory of my handkerchiefs, I found two handkerchiefs – one in my pants pocket and one in the interior pocket of my suit jacket. I recently wore the suit to a funeral. The handkerchief in the suit jacket was to surreptitiously slip to Barb in case “something got in her eye” and the one in my pants pocket was to cover all other contingencies.

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Handkerchiefs can be used for: wiping off blood from small cuts or bandaging cuts, tying them to the driver’s side handle of your car if you are broken down, to carry small items in or waving in a crowd at a public event to show deep emotion (either pleasure or displeasure). If ever Barb and I went on the Dr. Phil show (which we won’t because we’re too ordinary), we both would preplan to shed a few tears crocodile tears. Dr. Phil must order his monogrammed handkerchiefs by the gross because each day he gives away one or two to his guests. After the show, we could ask him to autography them and frame them. Oh, forget about hero worship, I would take them both and use them for such things I remember in the past. When our oldest son, Greg, was around 10 years old, he played little league baseball. In a game on a dusty day, he slid safely headfirst into home plate. When he raised his face, it was totally encrusted with dirt. I ran from the stands, got my trusty handkerchief out and wiped his face off so he could at least see.

Another time I was a member of a small group that was taking care of children at church. It was nice outside so we decided to take them to the playground on the property. It had rained the night before and although it was mid-morning and sunny, the black, rubber swing seats were still damp. A five year old boy wanted to swing so I whisked my handkerchief out and dried the seat. My nice white handkerchief immediately turned black. I showed it to him and before he got off the swing, I flipped the sides of the folded handkerchief over so there were two clean sides showing. When I showed it to the boy, his only explanation was: “God did it.”

Finally, a handkerchief can be used as an object to teach. When I was in second grade, we had a Christmas Pollyanna. The boy who chose me to give a present to was from a family with little money. When I opened my gift, I was saddened to see only a handkerchief! Obviously, I didn’t understand then. However, as I got older, I did understand. That handkerchief was a precious gift from him for two reasons. First of all and most important is that was all his family could afford and second, I now have realized a handkerchief can be as valuable as a car!

Jeff Hall, of Honey Brook, contributes columns to Berks-Mont Newspapers. Questions/commentsmay be directed to jeffreyhall77@comcast.net