At orientation at Target, as Belinda, the HR person, was giving us a store tour, a man stopped us and asked about small refrigerators. Belinda took him over to Seasonal, to the college supplies section, leaving us new employees standing awkwardly in the middle of the main track. We all avoided eye contact and looked around at our new place of work.
We were standing right next to where all the team/college shirts and jerseys are. In Sterling, it’s a row dedicated to Hokies gear. Here, it was evenly split up into the three main colleges in the area: Duke, NC State, and UNC.
Hokies gear decorates a lot of cars and shirts in the DC area, and in a lot of other places in Virginia. Its main rival is UVA, but you never see UVA pendents and shirts and bumper stickers. It’s all Hokies gear. And yet, no one discusses it. I’ve never heard anyone discuss Tech’s chances of getting into whatever championship they would get into. No one talks trash about UVA. No one talks up Tech. It’s all just Hokies gear.^
When I sat down in orientation, Belinda decided that the best way to introduce ourselves was to tell our name, what our position was going to be, and what our team was.
That seemed silly to me, but I listened in. I was going to be the last to speak anyway.
“For example,” said Belinda, “My name is Belinda, I went to school at Ohio State, and while I still say Go Buckeyes I have definitely joined the Wolfpack since moving to North Carolina.” She went into detail about how she became an NC State fan.
The next person to speak was a little grandmotherly lady who was going to work on the sales floor. “I am a Tarheel, long and proud,” she said.
From the reaction of Belinda and the kid next to me, she might as well have caught fire. A TaRHeEl? iN tARgeT? Non capisco!
“I’d keep that to yourself,” said Belinda, a smile pasted on her face.
During our security orientation, the security officer would ask us the same thing, and would have much the same reaction that Belinda and the kid next to me had. The officer would then say, in an overly-friendly voice, “Well, you look much better in red!”
I was already feeling awkward by the time we moved on to the kid next to me. He was a former high school football player, and was going to be doing morning front work. He had strong feelings about the Wolfpack, and was a fan of theirs. Then he took some time to start putting down Duke University. No one had said anything about Duke University. He just did it, off the cuff. Belinda and the little grandmotherly lady encouraged it. I sat quietly for several minutes and listened to these three now-coworkers of mine do nothing but put down Duke University.
Finally it came time for me to introduce myself. I said that my name is Kelsey and I would be working primarily in Starbucks and then, I said, weakly, “I went to George Mason so…go Patriots?”
Belinda nodded and the orientation continued.
So now here were the three of us, with nothing to do but stare at all these shirts and jerseys from the three primary schools in the Raleigh area. I indicated the shirts and said, “You know, it’s weird. In Virginia, there’s really only the one school everyone cares about — Virginia Tech. It’s weird to go from that to here, where there’s three schools and everyone is picking sides.”
The grandmotherly woman gave me a look and said, “Yes, it’s almost as though it’s an entirely different state.”
I’m not sure Target is going to work out for me, guys.
^That isn’t to say that I’ve never seen George Mason gear around town. It’s just much less prevalent and much more understated. We Patriots are proud of our education and would certainly recommend the school to someone who asks, but that’s about it.