Always sport a V-Sabre in the airport

When you travel in school spirit wear, you never know who you’ll meet

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Two years ago, I was strolling through the Chicago O’Hare International Airport on my way to grab a Chicago hot dog when I saw a man wearing a University of Virginia T-shirt passing by. He looked like he was in a rush — probably headed to his connecting flight — and before I had the chance to yell “go Hoos,” he had disappeared behind a mass of crisscrossing travelers.

I felt a little defeated for having just let a fellow Wahoo pass me by without making him aware that I, too, knew the “Good Ol’ Song” by heart and shared an affinity for Tony Bennett. I was on my way home from Charlottesville for my first college Thanksgiving break, and I had failed my first opportunity to bask in school spirit with another.

Then, I looked down at my own outfit — black leggings, a white tank top and a jean jacket. I realized I could be standing amongst many other alumni or students from the University, but without displaying some form of a V-Sabre, nobody would have any way of knowing. From that day on, I vowed to always wear some sort of University apparel while traveling or out in a big public setting, and I’ve made so many connections by making this simple switch in apparel.

Just last week, I was boarding a flight from Los Angeles to Monterey, Calif. when a guy sat down next to me and saw my Virginia logo.

“Do you go to U.Va.?” he asked.

“I do,” I said.

“I’m surprised you can’t count, then.”

“What?”

“You’re in my seat.”

I looked up at the row numbers and realized that I was, in fact, in the wrong seat, but the flight wasn’t full, so we decided to stay put after having a good laugh. His name was Ben, and he was a rising senior at the University of Texas with a best friend at the University of Virginia, who I happened to know. We chatted about our mutual connections and plans for the weekend in Monterey — he was going to visit his college friend, and so was I. By the end of the flight, we had exchanged numbers, and we all ended up going to dinner our last night there and having a great time.

I figured it was rare occurrence on the coast of California to find someone with a University connection, but just a few days after meeting Ben, my friend and I were walking along Pebble Beach when we spotted a family sitting in foldable chairs with Virginia sabres on their backs. We approached them, asking if they went to the University, and it turned out that the mom and dad were alumni who still live in Charlottesville but vacation to Monterey every summer.

“Do either of you babysit?” the dad asked. “Ours just graduated.”

“I do,” I said. “Who was your old babysitter?”

“Erin. She was in Alpha Phi.”

“That’s my grand-big!”

I couldn’t believe the coincidence. That afternoon, I walked away with a new babysitting gig and an even greater appreciation for how far a small display of school spirit can really go.

And these stories are just two recent ones amongst many. There’s the woman I met in the Trader Joe’s parking lot, the incoming first-year I met on the beach, the man I met while waiting in line for a sandwich at Disneyland and the employee at my summer internship.

The world is swarming with thousands upon thousands of people who all have unique stories, but who have all also spent a few years strolling the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia. We may now live in different places, have vastly different jobs and be in completely different stages of life, but at one point we all walked the Lawn, ate in Newcomb and cheered as Cav Man stormed Scott Stadium. It’s worth hearing their stories and sharing your own because you just might have more in common than you think.

When I travel in University of Virginia gear, I do it proudly, and I’m always excited for the next encounter, the next story and the next “Wahoowa!” to be shouted my way. The world is a big place, but when you wear a V-Sabre, I’ve learned that it becomes pleasantly small.

Katherine Firsching is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com

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