Thanks, glad to be here
Published 6:58 am Wednesday, January 23, 2002
I just wanted to say thank you.
I haven't been in Atmore but a brief time, but while I've been here, it seems that I've been accepted as just one of the "locals" wherever I'm at.
The Martin Luther King parade this Monday was just one example.
Now I'm not sure if it was because I was the newspaper guy (I was referred to as "Mr. Advance" on more than one occassion), but it felt good to have people come up to me, talk to me a bit and welcome me to the community.
And it dosen't stop there.
Just recently I was at a basketball game at Escambia County High School shooting pictures for a basketball game.
Now, honestly, I'm not a huge fan of basketball. Don't get me wrong: I don't dislike it. I mean, I'm male. It's inherent that we love anything that involves a ball, puck, gun or something mechanical. But I was having a really hard time watching those poor guys on the other team taking a royal beating.
I decided to take refuge in the lobby, order a bottled water, maybe a hot dog and just sit back for a minute or two. The game could wait: I needed nourishment!
As I walked toward the concession counter I met a warm smile and a friendly voice said "Hi Robbie, what can I get for you?"
Well, I was taken aback for a moment. I wondered if maybe this was someone from long ago I didn't recognize. Maybe they were one of my mothers co-workers who recognized me from the litany of pictures my mother has scattered about her desk.
All these questions were running around through my head. I couldn't stand it. I knew it was rude, but I just sort of blurted it out: "Excuse me, mam, but do I know you from somewhere?"
There wasn't even a pause before she responded, in her sweet, charming southern belle accent: "Why no, but I read about you coming to Atmore in the paper and I just wanted to welcome you here. We're so glad to have you!"
I didn't know what to say. I mean, I was raised in the south where it's proper and polite to wave and smile at strangers, but I had been away so long that I had forgotten that there were people so warm and welcoming that it overwhelmed me.
Although I know it's only a few hours north, wave at someone in Troy you don't know and be ready to recieve a politely placed "go-to-you-know-where" look. It's not the friendliest place in the world, and I guess after living there for a while you kinda get pulled into that mentality.
I've been befriended by a lot of great people and I like to think that I've earned a small bit of trust in them. I mean from the cashier at K-Mart to the police officer on the street, the energetic realtor to the extremely witty mayor, I feel like a true part of the community.
Well, almost. They tell me you REALLY can't be an Atmorian until you participate in Mayfest and Williams Station Day… And Leadership Atmore, and maybe Cardiac Arrest, Relay for Life, the YMCA, the Chamber of Commerce…
Well, I think you get the idea.
But I do want to thank everyone in this great community for welcoming me with open arms. It has really meant a lot to me.
When I relocated, I lost all the friends I had spent years getting to know. And, when you're in college, I mean you REALLY get to know your friends. Late night study sessions, all night whatever sessions at the Waffle House… I don't remember a night that I went to bed before 2 a.m. and a night that I didn't have friends over for at least some period of time.
And now, ya know, here I am in a brand new town with brand new people who don't know me from Adam's housecat.
Now, I'm not whining. My family, and I mean my ENTIRE family lives only a mile or two away, but it means so much to me to have someone come up to me and introduce themselves. And the best part about it? They utter three little words: "Welcome to Atmore."
I still remember my first day back in Atmore in over six or seven years. I was on my way into town ready to start a job in a new town: essentially, a new life. I drove by those great green signs on all four main entrances into the city limits.
I read the bottom of the sign to myself and sort of chuckled. The sign says "Old Friends, New Beginnings."
I thought to myself that maybe it was time to make a little correction, just for my sake.
Thanks everyone, and glad to be here.
Robbie Byrd is News Editor for The Advance. He may be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 368-2123.