Go, Buckeyes!

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 grí¢ce 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.

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4 Responses to Go, Buckeyes!

  1. Jim taylor says:

    You wrote, “Indulging an oft-regretted impulse to make a connection…” Are you sure about that? I have a feeling that you rarely regret making a connection, and that you probably have a lot of interesting (if short term) conversations with total strangers. I also suspect that The Big Guy often holds his head in his hands when you start one of these!
    The bigger question for me is the “short-term-ness” of these conversations. On the one hand, I think making that connection, even short term, is better than NOT making the connection. On the other hand, I sometimes feel that having made a connection, I shouldn’t let it just drift away like flotsam and jetsam on the tide — if two of us were drawn together, by fate or God or whatever, shouldn’t we make an attempt to continue this relationship?

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim – Well, I don’t regret it when it works, but sometimes the impulse leads to a less than desirable interaction. And yes, the Big Guy does hold his head, at least figuratively (as he does when I coax cats [as if anyone could coax a cat], but that’s another story). As for the short-term-ness-itude of it all, in this case I passed along my blog card (so retro to have a card for a blog) and will just hope for the best. If we lived closer so that there were an opportunity for another “click” (just to verify)… another story, perhaps.

  2. Alison says:

    It’s taken me a lot of years to come to accept, and appreciate the concept that connections are sometimes meant to be short term – and I like the visual of us being bits of flotsam and jetsam drifting on the tide. I used to mourn lost connections, and worked too hard to try and KEEP them. Now I tend to leave it to the cosmic forces to bring me together with so many interesting people – some never to be seen again – and others – like YOU Isabel, to resurface and reconnect!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Alison – Yes, and maybe some connections are meant to be shallow but long-standing – that hair salon receptionist who’s been recognizing my voice on the phone for 10 years; the drugstore checkout clerk whose hanging-around teenage daughter wowed me one day and who ‘remembers’ me if I mention the kid. That sort of thing. Not deep relationships but a way to feel connected with our world.

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