So I actually went and stored a hash in a variable, and decided to check for it in an if conditional for it to evaluate as true. Needless to say, I feel kind of stupid now. But I just learned something new in the process, so thank you.
Kitchen counters! I am on my second version of counters. It is slow going and I always see little details that could be done better. Have to force myself to say that's good enough for now and continue on.