Monday, October 12, 2009

Next Stop, Willoughby

This was one of the oddest encounters I've had in a while...

Last Saturday afternoon, after the abysmal SU-West Virginia game, I was walking in downtown Syracuse near Armory Square looking for a place to eat (via the Yelp iPhone app). A trio of youngish guys came up to me and one of them asked me, "Where is the balloon festival?"

The what? Before I could say "Um, I don't know; in the sky?" he added, "Is this Utica or Syracuse?"

It should be pointed out that at that exact moment, I was wearing a bright orange T-shirt with "Syracuse" emblazoned across it, and a cursory glance around the street would have identified at the very least a half dozen signs for businesses with the word "Syracuse" in them--including, I took especial note, the Syracuse Suds Factory half a block away.

"This is Syracuse," I replied, for some reason sounding like Bob Newhart.

They were in disbelief. "Are you sure? We took a cab from Rochester and told the cabbie to drop us off in downtown Utica." I hope they didn't tip the guy.

Wait: they were taking a cab from Rochester to Utica? That's a good 120 miles. Wouldn't it have been cheaper to rent a car? Or charter a hot-air balloon?

"I'm absolutely positive this is Syracuse," I said. Now I was starting to question where I was, like those Twilight Zone episodes where middle-aged men wake up in strange towns and have to relive their childhoods.

Anyway, they still refused to believe me. "You're putting us on," he said to me.

Yes, because nothing fills me with puckish delight more than to don a Syracuse shirt and wander around downtown Utica confusing people. Curses, they've called me out!

They were taking a cab from Rochester to Utica and I'm the jerk? I guess it was appropriate that they were looking for a balloon festival since they seemed to be as high as one.

Wasn't anyone in their party paying the slightest attention to where they were going? I have driven to and from Syracuse (from east and west) many many many times, and I know for a fact that there is ample highway signage; "Syracuse Next 6 Exits," "Entering Syracuse," "81 South Syracuse," all those "Carrier Dome Parking" signs, the big "Hey, Dipshits, You're In Syracuse!!!"'s really not Brigadoon.

Anyway, they remained convinced that I was putting them on. A car pulled up and a couple of women got out, and the lads walked up to them and asked, "What city is this?"

One of the women gave him a look that suggested she thought it an odd pick-up line. And she would have been right. "Syracuse," she said.

"Told you!" I shouted back to them.

I wandered off; I don't know if they were yet convinced, or were going to try for best of three. Perhaps if they ask enough people, Syracuse will magically transform into Utica. Which is a pretty terrifying thought.

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