Earlier this year, the St. Bonaventure University men’s swimming and diving team had an apparel sale as a fundraiser. I picked up a couple of items, including a brown Under Armour t-shirt. Now, I didn’t swim at SBU, but I worked with the team as an intern in the athletic department’s communications office. It was a great experience and I have remained loosely connected to the team and coach since graduating.
Fast forward to last weekend. I was wearing my St. Bonaventure shirt while grocery shopping when I heard a woman say, “See. He went to St. Bonaventure.” I looked over a woman with her two kids. I smiled, as I always do, and ask my standard question: “What year did you graduate?” She made me answer first (1999) before she divulged that she walked across the stage in 1994. We came up with about 3 or 4 names of mutual friends. She was also a journalism major and had worked at The Bona Venture, the campus newspaper. We talked about our jobs and our maintained connections to the people we met there, all the while her kids stood by bored to tears. It was as if they had heard this all before.
It’s because they had. I’m not sure of any other linkage where total strangers stop one another in the middle of the Wegmans’ dairy section and trade details of one another’s life without any reservation. She told me that she got a job freelancing for a newspaper because she mentioned that she went to SBU. The editor stopped the phone interview and hired her without further question. He, too, was a graduate.
As we parted company and walked away, it occurred to me that we didn’t even exchange names. We knew about each other’s kids, where we lived on campus, who each other’s friends were, why we hadn’t been back to Olean in so long…but we never found out the other person’s name.
Is this unique to the insane cultlike alumni base of SBU or do Niagara grads stop one another to talk? When two LeMoyne graduates see one another weather t-shirts, do they start asking each other questions? I’m sincerely doubting it.
Today I’m heading out in a black long-sleeved t-shirt. It’s too cold to wear short sleeves. Makes me think I should have grabbed one of those during the fundraiser.