I was choosing between Cheerios and raisin bran at breakfast in Livemore, Calif., when a lady I didn’t know tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I was in town for the wedding.
No, just passing through, I said. The woman in the Janis Joplin tie-dye t-shirt pointed to my orange and blue model.
“You’re wearing an Auburn shirt and the bride just graduated from vet school at Auburn. She’s getting married this afternoon,” she said. “I thought you must be one of her friends.”
Never did I imagine that my wardrobe would be noticed thousands of miles away. And over a three-week journey, that was not the only time.
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It started in a truck stop in Idaho. A man at the checkout counter said I was a long way from home. So was he. He was from a Razorback from Arkansas.
In a grocery store in Oregon a fellow commented about my shirt and pointed to his own: a souvenir from Auburn’s national championship victory over the Oregon Ducks in 2011.
At a Corvallis Knights baseball game on the campus of Oregon State University, I was at the souvenir booth when I noticed the man next to me had on a crimson shirt with an Alabama logo on the chest.
“I drove 2,700 miles to get away from you people,” I joked. Turns out he has never lived in Alabama and didn’t go to school in Tuscaloosa.
“But I’m a lifelong Bama fan,” he said.
Later, the family had a banana split at Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco. A woman at the next table said it was good to see someone from Auburn.
“I graduated from Auburn, but I live in Colorado now,” she said.
There were other comments in other states, but the woman at the motel breakfast bar was the chattiest. She couldn’t get over the coincidence of my Auburn shirt showing up on the day of the Auburn grad’s wedding. I didn’t bother to explain that I didn’t go to Auburn but that my wife was a proud graduate.
“Do something for me,” I said. “At a quiet moment whisper these words in her ear: War Eagle.”
The woman didn’t understand.
“Trust me. She’ll know what those words mean.”
Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org