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Smell the Coffee: Our people make our state

By Karin Fuller

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It was just a televised view from a blimp during the WVU-LSU game a few weeks back, but there was something about it that stuck with me. The sea of Mountaineer gold. I'd never seen so much of the same color in a stadium before.

Didn't seem to matter that the odds were stacked against us, we were in it together. I felt swollen with pride. Even though we lost the game, that didn't matter. That feeling stayed with me. I mentioned it to one of my co-workers, Caitlin Ashley, who'd been in Morgantown for the game.

Caitlin told about going with her boyfriend to a smallish bar called the Back Door the night before the game. The bar was packed to capacity, and so loud it was hard to hear the person right beside you. But when the DJ put on "Country Roads," she said the bar went still for a moment or two, and then everyone started singing along with the song.

When the song reached the words "West Virginia," a lot of people would yell it at the top of their lungs. And then, when the song ended, there was crazy cheering, and a few seconds later, it was back to business as before. Like a switch had been flipped.

"It was the most incredible thing to be part of," Caitlin said. "Almost like one of those choreographed flash mobs, except it wasn't."

Caitlin's story got me to thinking about all the things I love about this state. We aren't like anywhere else.

A few months back, I was at the Kanawha Mall with my friend Shannon Ahern, who moved here from New York City. She and I had been inside the mall longer than we'd planned, and when we returned to her car, it wouldn't start. Within minutes, a Radio Shack employee was trying to help, and then came Mark Holmes, whose nephew lived near us years ago. Mark called a friend who knew cars, and others stopped to help, too.

The thing is -- in West Virginia, that's the norm. Not the exception.

When my husband's grandmother was in her 80s, she decided to move from Los Angeles to Morgantown, and drove across country herself. She hadn't been in Morgantown more than a week when she miscalculated the width of a narrow road. Her tires dropped over the edge, causing her car to be stuck.

When she stepped out to assess the situation, she saw four women rushing over from a nearby beauty shop. They'd seen what had happened and were coming to help. These four women lifted her car back onto the road.

I love stories like that. So much that I posted on Facebook, asking my friends what they loved most about the state.

My former classmate, Kathy Rhoads, wrote: "When I first moved to Ohio, I went shopping with a friend who grew up near Cleveland. While checking out at one of the mall stores, I was chatting with the salesperson -- just the normal stuff you talk to strangers about. As we walked away, my friend said, 'Isn't that a coincidence you knew her? Was she from West Virginia?' I said I didn't know her from before. I just met her in the checkout line. My friend was astounded that I was so friendly with someone I didn't know. I guess I'll never stop missing shopping in West Virginia where you always see someone you know or chat with someone new."

Another former classmate, Leigh Shell, wrote: "In West Virginia, strangers are mostly kind and will give a wave, a smile. I went on a short trip to New York City, got on the subway and proceeded to smile and say, 'Hi, y'all!' Got my feelings hurt. Kim said, 'For the love of God, you are not supposed to make eye contact!'"

My friend Susan Linden loves "that our roots go to the center of the earth. We're like Jeep drivers. If you aren't one of us, then you just don't get it."

My ex, Mitch Vingle, said he likes how there are times he's at the airport, in a place as big as New York City, waiting to fly back here, and he realizes he knows darn near every person that will be on his same flight.

When asked what she loves most about West Virginia, former co-worker Amy Robinson answered simply: "Tudor's Biscuit World."

Which prompted me to think of a different favorite of mine: Favorite Line from a Drive-Through Worker.

A friend and I were going through the drive-through at Tudor's. I ordered a sausage biscuit and my friend ordered a BLT on toast. There was no one ahead of us, but our order was still taking an unusually long time. My friend tapped on the window and asked if there was a problem. The worker smiled and pointed at their sign. "It doesn't say Tudor's Toast World, does it?"

First time I've ever tipped a drive-through worker.

Do you have a favorite West Virginia story you'd be willing to share? Email it to Karin Fuller at karinfuller@gmail.com.


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