A couple of Decembers ago, while driving from the vast Midwestern metropolis where I attended graduate school to Saranac Lake for the Christmas holidays, my friend, (and fellow Saranac Laker) Dave, and I stopped at a gas station-slash-internationally beloved sandwich shop in Nowheresville, PA. The plan was simply to refuel the vehicle (with gasoline) and our stomachs (with internationally beloved sandwiches) - but, as often happens in Pennsylvania, we got much more than what we bargained for.
The pit stop began mundanely enough. While I pumped the gas, Dave headed inside to secure a spot in the sandwich line. After topping the tank off - in thrilling defiance of the tiny instructions on the back of the nozzle - I followed him.
Immediately, I saw two college-aged guys in scarlet-and-brown wind suits perusing the candy selection by the cash register. I recognized those wind suits. The colors, the patterns, the letters reading "St. Lawrence University Hockey" - those wind suits could only belong to St. Lawrence University hockey players.
Spotting St. Lawrence hockey players in Nowheresville, PA would be weird enough on its own, but as a St. Lawrence alumnus, I felt like I was either dreaming or getting "Punk'd" by celebrity moron Ashton Kutcher. I entered the sub shop section of the store in a daze and got in line behind Dave.
Looking around, I saw that St. Lawrence hockey players occupied three or four tables. I tapped Dave on the shoulder. "The St. Lawrence hockey team is in here," I said.
"What?" Dave asked.
"The St. Lawrence University hockey team. They're here, in this building, right now."
"Yes." I swept my hand across the room. "That's them taking up all the tables."
Then it dawned on me that St. Lawrence was playing against my vast Midwestern university, in my vast Midwestern metropolis, that weekend. I remembered hearing about the game months earlier and realizing it fell during Christmas break. The coincidence was so striking that I felt almost obligated to point it out to the hockey players.
But feeling "almost obligated" is more or less the same as not feeling obligated at all, so I didn't point it out. The problem was that I saw no way of explaining my presence in that particular gas station-slash-internationally beloved sandwich shop in that particular corner of Nowheresville, PA without looking like either a liar or a St. Lawrence-obsessed weirdo who got his jollies stalking the school's sports teams around the country.
I did, however, imagine how I might point the coincidence out. I would hop onto a table in the middle of that crowded sub shop and yell for everyone to listen up. "You gents might not recognize me," I'd say in a booming voice, smirking like the self-satisfied son of a gun I was, "but I'm a SLU alum - class of '05, to be exact - and I couldn't help but noticing that you all are, collectively speaking, the SLU hockey team. Am I right?"
They'd exchange baffled, shocked glances, but before any of them could speak, I'd continue. "Furthermore," I'd say, pounding a fist into an open palm, "I happen to know you're on your way to Midland City, Ohio, to play The Midland State University. Well, get this: I'm a graduate student at that very school. What do you say to that?"
They'd exchange baffled, shocked glances again. One or two of them would look toward the door, calculating their chances of getting outside before I could draw and fire the concealed handgun they imagined I must be carrying.
But then the coach - sitting at a table in the far corner - would begin a slow clap. He'd rise to his feet, and his players, nodding and smiling now, would follow his lead. They'd converge on the table where I stood, hoist me upon their shoulders, and carry me outside, chanting "This guy's cool! This guy's cool!" as they marched around the parking lot.
After the players set me down, the coach would present me with a plaque proclaiming me the Official Cool Guy of the St. Lawrence University Athletic Department, and we'd go our separate ways, pleased to have shared such an enriching experience.
No, I thought as I ate my sandwich, that wouldn't have made me look like a St. Lawrence-obsessed weirdo who got his jollies stalking the school's sports teams around the country at all.
Dan Leonidas makes shallow observations. He can be reached at email@example.com or myspace.com/lastminuteconcerns.