By Loran Smith
A traditional greeting upon meeting a stranger often includes a simple query: “Where you from?” Correct grammar is not expected of proponents of such questioning.
The inquiry can be rather pedestrian in that it is a conversational icebreaker when you don’t have much to talk about. If you grow up in Georgia, for example, and you are familiar with the towns and counties across the state and someone says they hail from Waycross, Valdosta, Fargo, Summerville, Sasser or Sea Island, you may react by name dropping of friends who are residents or, perhaps, a dejected “Yeah I know Swainsboro, I once got a speeding ticket there.”
What would be your reaction if you asked a pretty Georgia coed the old “where you from” question and she replies, “Manhattan Beach, California?” That happened to me a few months ago, and I now have a new friend who is interesting, enterprising and a most-likely-to-succeed-UGA-graduate-to-be.
Audrey Scott literally grew up on the beach in Southern California. She is blonde, tanned and can manipulate a surfboard with the best of surf riders. She was also into beach volleyball and was offered a scholarship for that sport by the University of Alabama Birmingham. Interestingly, the nearest beach to UAB is Lake Martin, 93 miles away where most of the waves are inconsequential ripples from jet skis. Or from a high-powered Evinrude motor which ventures too close to your dock.
When her parents, who are chiropractors, attended Life University in Marietta, they found there was much to like about Georgia and eventually settled in Cumming.
Audrey first enrolled at Kennesaw State but was advised by a family friend that the upscale UGA campus would offer more consequential options. He simply advised that a state university would open more doors for her. One visit to the campus in Athens and she couldn’t wait to fill her wardrobe with red and black apparel.
There is no beach in Athens, but she has found rapture with the academic opportunity and the flora that surrounds her every day. “I just love to walk the campus and the neighborhood streets in Athens,” she says. “Everything is so green and beautiful. I love it here and have found the people are exceptionally nice and uncommonly sociable.”
She is grateful for the academic journey she is experiencing and immediately identified with the happening that takes place between the hedges on fall Saturdays. “Oh yeah, I am a devoted Dawg fan and hate it when I miss a game because of my job.”
I met her when she waited my table at the Athens Country Club more than a year ago. You guessed it, I am sure. When I had the time to chat with her, I led with, “Where’s home for you?” She replied, “Originally Manhattan Beach, California.”
That got my attention, not really hearing the disclaimer, “originally.” Anyone who has spent time in Manhattan Beach naturally comes away charmed by the setting. The real estate is as expensive as it is anywhere in the beachside world, but the living is without peer. Flowers, sunshine, the majesty of the Pacific, shops and trendy restaurants, along with the social buzz, make it an attractive enclave even if you only have a day to hang out there.
Such a contrast to Athens, the Classic City, which brings about this view. You can enjoy wherever you settle with the right attitude, in her view. Audrey Scott, the well-rounded risk management major in the Terry College of Business, is cloaked in such compatibility that she could flourish anywhere.
Her enterprise would make your day. The beneficiary of a Hope Scholarship, she wants to pay her own way. Her parents help with some of the educational hard costs, but she pays her rent and does her own cooking and laundry.
“Paying your own way is so rewarding and fulfilling,” she says. She finds the quality of life in her new address better than California. Adaptability is her modus operandi. She can’t go down to the beach, but recently she and her closest friends purchased cheap tubes from Walmart, tied them together and floated down the Oconee.
Her boyfriend, Justin Loedding, an agriculture major from Cumming, is teaching her “how to be Southern,” bringing about an irony that even she finds amusing — a Southern California girl moving across the country and dating a guy who drives a tractor.
Perhaps there will come a day when she meets someone along the way and they ask, “Where you from?” Audrey will say, “The Classic City of Athens, Georgia.” You can’t have too many of her type in your community.