Caps for Sale

David Embers – Class of 2020


Four-year-old David was a simple guy. He loved to eat, he loved to argue, but most of all, he loved to wear hats. He loved cowboy hats, baseball hats, and party hats. Any kind of hat. An odd obsession for sure, especially when his head was so egregiously large. Regardless, it was his first love. His favorite book to read at bedtime was Caps for Sale, a children’s book detailing the life of a cap peddler who was unique in that he wore all the hats he had for sale on his own head. My mom and dad must have read me that book a thousand times. I can still recite entire pages from memory. I spent hours thinking about how happy that hat salesman must have been. Considering its intended audience was pre-kindergarten, the book’s author likely did not anticipate impacting a reader so deeply, but that’s an issue to take up with pudgy, argumentative, cap wearing four-year-old David. How frustrating must it be to be my parents? You pick out some random book at the bookstore hoping your kid will fall asleep by page four like he does every other book. Instead, he forces you to re-read it over and over again. And then, the next day, when you need help putting away dishes, he’s standing there eating his eighth popsicle, daydreaming about how many hats he can balance on his head. Whatever my parents got paid to put up with me, it wasn’t enough. And yet, as it stands today, some twenty years later, I’m still thinking about that book. Popsicle in hand, I’m still thinking about what it really means to wear all the hats.


For me, the caps have become a metaphor for what it means to be a doctor – the ultimate cap peddler in the world of medicine. As a physician, every patient affords you the ability to switch hats. Every interaction becomes a chance to change characters. You might be the teacher, the learner, the listener, the leader, or the friend. You might save a life and comfort a grieving family in the same day. You might help tackle a patient’s depression before lunch and then celebrate with someone who overcame addiction in the afternoon. Being a doctor demands a person wear many different hats. And sometimes, it demands you wear all the hats.


I’ll be the first to admit, the 24/7 cafeterias and a personal relationship with the saint that bakes those Roasterie brownies have been perks I never knew I needed, but 5,000 daily calories will only take you so far.  I’m happy that, every day, I’ll get to wear all the hats. And even with an odd shaped head, twenty-six-year old David loves that.

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