A few weekends ago, Mike, the girls and I drove to Morgantown to watch the Mountaineers defeat Georgia State. We bought single tickets, so that planted us in the “family zone”. By any other name, it’s the visitor’s section. Though the area is dry — no alcohol allowed — people properly hydrated themselves before filling this sliver of the stands. Sitting in the end zone has it’s privileges — you get to see plenty of touchdown action if your favorite team scores in a corner of the field. It’s also where you can see State Troopers escort unruly fans out of the family zone when the score becomes too close for comfort.
It really is a great place to get insulted.
We found our four seats with no trouble, but I had forgotten how cozy you have to get to the stranger next bottom over. We literally sat in each other’s laps for most of the game, or until halftime, when beverage-less fans ran to re-quench their thirst.
A woman in her late 40s scooted a few inches down to stretch her legs. I leaned to the right to give her more room.
“Your girls are so sweet,” she said.
I pretended not to hear her at first. Small talk irritates me when the band is on the field.
“Oh…thank you,” I replied. ”This is our youngest daughter’s first game.”
“Well now!” she said. “And how old are they?”
THE BAND IS ON THE FIELD, LADY.
“Ten and seven,” I remarked.
“That’s nice. Such a fun age,” she replied.
“And what do you do?” she asked.
I WATCH FOOTBALL IN SILENCE.
“I’m a writer,” I offered without explanation.
“Ahh…a writer! And what do you write?”
COLUMNS ABOUT CHATTY PEOPLE THAT RUIN HALFTIME SHOWS.
“A bit of everything. Advertising copy, articles for magazines, content for management pieces.”
“Oh,” she sang. “How fun.”
The Pride of West Virginia was in the middle of a tribute to military heroes. Men and women who give selflessly in the name of American freedom.
Freedom of speech. Freedom of choice.
“I don’t know that it’s fun all the time, but I enjoy it,” I said, leaning to the left.
“It’s nice that you can do fun things like that.”
Suddenly, I felt the need to make my work harder. Meaner. Uglier.
“I also write a blog for the Daily Mail in Charleston,” I continued. ”And I have a children’s book launching, which follows a book of essays published in 2012.”
The band marched off the field.
“How cute! What a fun little job you have.”
FUN LITTLE JOB?
For a brief second, I thought about lying about my profession. I’m a scientist. I cured polio.
“I also teach communication classes at a local college,” I continued. ”When I have time.”
What was this? What had become of me? I let this busy body get under my summer tan-faded skin? The competition should have been on the 50-yard line, not in section 98.
“Wow….!” she said, bouncing her foot and sipping on something most certainly spiked with an alcohol that she couldn’t handle. Probably Old Crow.
The crowd started to fill back in the stands packed like sardines. The older woman who had been seated next to me brought back a platter of nachos with cheese sauce, a combo that I desperately wanted to knock out of her hands and into the lap of her daughter, I assumed.
Why did I feel the need to defend what I do? Because I enjoy my job and can do it from a place that I call home, shouldn’t mean that it’s any less of a profession. It pays some bills and buys two (but not four) One Direction tickets. It allows me to clear my head and heart in a way that speaks to others (on occasion). It’s what I’ve been determined to do for a living — to sustain financial and personal fulfillment. I love what I’ve been able to do with this life. I really love that my daughters are starting to take an interest in it, too.
Right before the second half kick-off, I decided to engage in a little chit-chat of my own. The woman looked totally engaged in the activity on the field. It was show time.
I reached across Nacho Nanny and tapped her daughter on the knee. She looked surprised and mildly irritated.
“I’m so rude,” I shouted over the crowd’s roar. ”I’ve been talking about myself the whole time. I never asked what you do…”
The woman’s smile returned.
“I work for my husband,” she yelled back. I looked around her at the man wearing an oversized set of headphones to muffle sound. Most likely hers.
“Oh!” I exclaimed. ”How fun!”