Life is strange and unpredictable. Dali famously said, “I do not understand why, when I ask for grilled lobster in a restaurant, I’m never served a cooked telephone.”
That’s never happened to me either, but I have, when I least expected it, felt a copperhead’s fangs sink into my foot, or got to pet a strange dog inside an airport, or found myself two thousand miles from home to attend a football game, all of which seemed equally unlikely at the time.
This time two weeks ago, we were farther West than I’d ever been before, in Phoenix, Arizona for the college football National Championship Game.
My husband is a Clemson graduate but has been a fan long before he ever enrolled. I bet he was wearing orange the first time I met him back in 4th grade. We go to a lot of the home games, and even went all the way to Louisville for an away game this year, but before I started dating Brandon about four years ago, I didn’t follow college football at all, so it’s all still a little surreal to me.
The Tigers didn’t win, but they had a phenomenal season and played a great game, and we had a trip full of win nonetheless. Here are but a few examples of our victories:
- It only took one time in the airport for a woman to say, “I like your sweatshirt,” and me to reply, “Thanks, it’s really warm,” and her to give me a puzzled look, in order for me to realize I had failed to correctly translate the meaning of her statement from football-ese into English and had given an inappropriate response. After that, I knew to reply, “Go Tigers!” Like all foreign languages, learning is best by immersion in the culture.
- I was tempted to wear my Winthrop pullover to Arizona (not to the game, mind you, just around town to show some Eagle pride) but thanks to my wise husband I avoided the faux pas of wearing the color garnet, which would surely be mistaken for Crimson Tide red and gotten me stabbed. This wearing of colors thing is serious business and as close as I expect I’ll ever get to being in a gang.
- I discovered that I’m skilled at standing on one leg—no chair or other support needed—to take off my boots and to put them back on again for the security checkpoint at the airport. I chalk it up to my yoga practice. You should all give yoga a try, if for no other reason than to develop this skill, because you know they never have more than like two seats in the security-recovery area and there’s always a crowd of stocking-footed travelers vying for those treasured spots.
- We successfully kept ourselves from going to bed at 7 pm every night, tired as we were from the crazy flight times and jet lag. Nine p.m. is a perfectly respectable bedtime for a couple of wild partying football fans, right?
- Brandon found an animal sanctuary where we got to feed a camel, a giraffe, and a tiger.
- We were able to find sweet tea in Arizona.
- We survived a harrowing drive straight up the side of a mountain to the snowy town of Jerome, where we tasted the highly fabled and delicious Caduceus wine and discovered that a magical Puscifer shop exists where you can buy just about anything Maynard-related (including a haircut from the barber shop in the basement). I was too afraid of heights and of falling in the snow on my metal hip to go up to The Asylum or The Haunted Hamburger for dinner, so we ate at a place called Vaqueros and had the best Mexican food of our lives.
- We got to the Phoenix Botanical Garden—a place full of strange and beautiful plants and sculptures—only to discover it was free admission day.
- I was somehow the calm person through some nasty turbulence on our flight home and managed to reassure the panicked girl beside me, mostly to stop her from flailing about and repeatedly punching my thigh.
- I managed not to get beat up or cussed out when I blearily spilled most of a bottle of Snapple on a burly looking Clemson fan on the layover at JFK, after we’d all been up all night and just learned our connecting flight was delayed. I think he only restrained himself because I had on orange.
- I felt short beside giant saguaros and small in the wide open desert/mountain landscape, a rare and treasured feeling when you are a nearly-six-foot-tall woman.
You know, working with numbers all day in institutional research the last couple years has, ironically enough, reinforced my firm belief that not everything that matters can be quantified. All in all, The Great Arizona Trip of 2016 will go down in my personal history as a reminder that sometimes you end up winning even when the number on the scoreboard says otherwise.