Where did that hat come from?

I’d just had my picture taken by a computer at General Shanks Elementary School, and the visitor’s nametag that the computer printed out had my picture on it.

And in the photo, I was wearing a hat.

Trouble is, I wasn’t wearing a hat.

Anyone who has visited a public school recently will tell you it’s a very different experience from the days when you could just wander in.

School safety concerns have changed the landscape entirely.

Today, most doors are locked to outsiders. Visitors have to use one specific entryway, have to identify themselves over the intercom then go through a process registering their visit in the school secretary’s office.

For the past couple of years, the Portland Rotary Club has partnered with Jay Schools personnel once a month to help distribute food from the Second Harvest Food Bank in Muncie.

The food bank sends a truck loaded with what can only be described as an eclectic assortment of food stuffs. Some of it looks appetizing and delicious. Some of it is just a little weird. (Chicken feet, anyone?)

School staff and volunteers then organize the food for distribution, greet families, record the size of each household served and the ages of the children and adults, then use a rule of thumb to determine who gets how much of any particular item.

Households of four individuals and under get to take, for instance, one bag of potatoes, while those with more than four in the house get two bags.

I started volunteering back when the distribution was at Judge Haynes Elementary and followed it to Shanks when Judge Haynes closed. (An identical distribution takes place on the west side of the county on a different day of the month.)

It’s been rewarding, and it’s been fun interacting with the families. Food insecurity isn’t just some buzz phrase; it’s real.

But these days, if you’re a volunteer you have to go through that school security process when you arrive.

The first time around, I was truly impressed. A touchscreen on the computer walks you through the process. You put your driver’s license in the right spot so that the barcode on the back can be scanned. Then you crouch down — if you are my height — so the desktop computer can take your photo. You then get a nametag with your name, the date and your photo on it.

Very official. Very secure.

The second or third time around I felt like a pro, zipping through the process as if I actually knew what the heck I was doing.

And then — inevitably — I got cocky.

Last month, I encountered a visitor who had never gone through the security process. Let me show you, I said.

Then I did it wrong.

Not sure what I did out of sequence. I probably scanned in my driver’s license too soon.

At any rate, the next thing I knew, the computer was taking a photo of my ribcage. I had failed to crouch down at the right time.

As I was apologizing for screwing things up, the computer printed out my nametag.

This ought to be good, I thought.

But instead of a photo of my abdomen, the nametag had my face on it.

And in the photo, I was wearing a hat, a hat that was still on top of a dresser in our front hall at home.

I was baffled. What just happened? When the heck was I wearing that hat?

Then I remembered. It was back when the Indiana Court of Appeals heard a case at Jay County High School. I’d gone through the security process in the office at JCHS that day, and I’d been wearing a wool hat to keep off the cold.

As Jay Schools technology expert Katie Clark explained to me the other day, the entire security system is interconnected. When the computer saw a photo of my ribcage, it didn’t like it and used my barcode identification to go searching in its archives until it found one from a few months earlier, one with a hat.

So now I know that next time if my knees are bothering me and I don’t want to crouch down for the desktop computer, I can simply stand tall and get a nametag anyway.

Hat and all.