Frank The Hat.

I’m sitting in Starbucks raised seating area – on a chair created to give customers an hour or so before the piles kick in, engaged in conversation with local resident, ‘Frank the Hat’. More to the point, Frank the Hat is engaged in a conversation with me - operating on a simple basis of ‘he talks, I listen’. Frank is a smartly dressed 77-year-old Irishman. Recently returned from a four month stay in the local hospital's mental ward, after trashing his own flat due to – in his words, Mi5 wiring the place with microphones; because he knows too much about those greedy banks, government plans to force the Euro upon us, and for telling his local council they are too lefty. 

Frank is a harmless mental case – to human beings at least; inanimate objects need to tread carefully around him, and suffers from paranoid delusions. As usual, another of life’s weirdo’s has gravitated towards me. As usual, I am asking question after question. I do this because there are only two types of people in this world I fear; psychos, and weirdo’s. Thankfully he is the latter; the former I refuse to even entertain.

My plan was to take a seat and read Like The Flowing River; a collection of Paolo Coelho short stories - before my girlfriend arrives. One polite comment about the invisible man nicking my seat later, and off this guys runs; on tangents of how the Eurozone is rubbish, the world is coming to an end – as it has been for the past ten-thousand years. How kids today are ridiculously ignorant and can’t spell, laptops are pointless, and the usual barrage of friendly chat, loaded with deep-seated negative undertones. He tells a stranger his life story; a former soldier, turned postal worker, turned mental case. I always feel sad about meeting seniors who have not attained any kind of philopshical peace after so many years, but it is not my place to judge his life – so I decide to make a move. Moments before I say my goodbyes, and like a silky smooth pick-up-artist, he mentions one other aspect of his life, and it hooks me right back in…

Frank tells me he has spent his past years visiting coffee shops alone, dressed in Jimmy Saville style get up of multi-coloured shell-suits, over elaborate bold shirts, variations of Elton John style sunglasses, and a collection of large, winter animal hats; hence the alias. He regales me with the months spent sitting in Brighton, Charing Cross, and other Starbucks around the UK, wearing clothes which resemble those of a practising Paedophile. He proudly proclaims to be the star of over fifty YouTube videos, hundreds of tourist photos, and how he has made people happy all over the nation; a genuine spark hits his eyes, when he speaks. While Frank is clearly a guy loaded with mental issues, he is also something of an entertainer.

I cannot help but like the guy. He is intelligent, articulate, and has an interesting story. The problem is, Frank unfortunately - like many of the random people in life I engage in conversation, has done nothing but talk about himself. For Frank, I am not important. I am merely a polite sounding board, designed to listen to his story. He has no interest in who I am, what I do, how I do it, and most importantly, what I think about – well, anything; the only question he asks me, is the capital of Iceland – I already know it is Reykjavik. And it is for this reason, I find conversations like this both thoroughly engaging, but also somewhat sad. 

Frank the Hat is a harmless, lonely old man. While he clearly has many issues to contend with, I feel his personality tilt more on the nicer side, than nasty. He was probably just so lonely that it was refreshing to have someone to talk at, about his woes.  I guess being lonely is hard when you are young, but even harder when you are a 77-year-old, paranoid delusional. 

Eventually the text message alert of my phone buzzes. I stand, pat the hat on the shoulder, and wish him well; I only say these words when I mean them. I never had the heart to tell him he wasn’t important enough to be bugged; maybe it is better for him to believe he is...


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