A chat with a waitress in Sedona leads to a connection over a hoodie.
She’s just checking that we’re happy with our meal. We might be looking a little glum as we finish our brunch under the glow of the diner’s TV, tuned to some sports channel or other, but it’s not the food that’s the problem. Several rushed trips through Sedona, Arizona had left me wanting more: more time for walking the picturesque trails, more time for taking pictures of its amazing red-rock formations in early-morning and late-evening light. We had planned this trip to meet those purposes.
Someone, however, failed to notify the weather gods. The temperature falling to below freezing is bad enough; the sleet falling on the trails for two days is the coup de grâce for any extended hiking. As for the angled light on those iconic red rocks—imagined endlessly in my mind’s eye—well, the cloud cover at last night’s sunset and this morning’s sunrise has pretty much taken care of that.
Satisfied by our reassurances and empty plates that there is nothing amiss within her responsibility area, the young woman turns to go and I notice the logo on her gray zippered hoodie: Ohio State.
Indulging an oft-regretted impulse to make a connection, however tenuous, I offer cheerfully, My brother teaches at Cleveland State. And she launches.
I’ve never even been to Ohio, she says, starting to laugh. I bought this from an old lady at a garage sale because it was, you know, perfect.
She holds out her arms so we can see that the cuffs are not ratty and that the body of the hoodie has no rips or stains.
She hated to let it go, our storyteller continues, so I made her a promise. I’ll learn about Ohio, I told her. I’ll cheer for Ohio State’s teams.
And so I do, she concluded, gesturing at the TV, even though people here look at me funny when I go, Go Buckeyes!
Still laughing, she heads back to the kitchen; still laughing, we head up to the till.
Sympathy in affliction may be sensitive and all that, but it lacks something in making a lasting connection, coming as it can from someone with whom you have nothing in common, even from someone you positively dislike. Shared laughter, on the other hand, really is the shortest distance between two people, just like the fridge magnet says.
As we retreat into our motel-room sanctuary, the affliction of this otherwise dreary day is lessened by an unexpected connection, driven by a young stranger’s zaniness.
I’ll learn about Ohio! Her enthusiastic and ridiculous promise echoes in my head, and I laugh again.