By Daniel Dunaief
Amid the delightful sensory experiences of a recent warm-weather vacation, my wife and I enjoyed an unexpected gift: The words other people chose to share on their T-shirts.
The messages weren’t limited to any one age group, as the young and old took time to find phrases they shared with strangers who were enjoying time in warmer weather.
A boy, aged about 12, stood in a line with a white T-shirt with a message in all-capital letters: “Help I’m on a family vacay.” To round out the picture, he had a dour and distracted look as he was clearly waiting for other members of his family to catch up to him in line.
Another boy about the same age strutted around with a colorful shirt that suggested: “You need me on your team.” In a culture where sports plays such a prominent role in the identity of children and parents who drive children they imagine might one day be making six, seven, eight or nine figure salaries on fields all over the country, that shirt was consistent with the belief in the American Sports Dream.
Numerous adults and young adults offered a connection to their favorite sports teams. For one football fan, though, merely sharing the Philadelphia Eagles emblem was insufficient. Near his beloved Eagles logo, he urged his team to “Beat Dallas.” This year, that was especially fitting as the Eagles overtook the Cowboys in the last few weeks of the year to win the NFC East title.
I’m not sure if this coupling was deliberate, but a woman’s T-shirt suggested that readers “Follow your soul,” while her companion wore a Nashville Predators shirt, indicating, at least in the moment, that her friend’s soul may track the hockey team from Tennessee.
A young girl, walking next to her father, wore a shirt that suggested that she’d “Rather Be a Mermaid.” Given how desperately Ariel, the Little Mermaid of Disney fame, sang about wanting to escape the ocean, I couldn’t help thinking about the line from the song “Under the Sea,” where the crab Sebastian admonishes her — King Triton’s youngest daughter — that “the seaweed is always greener in somebody else’s lake.”
An older African-American couple borrowed from the movies as the man wore a shirt that suggested he was “Straight Outta Money.” The message probably resonated for others who may have blown through some of their travel and entertainment budget for time in a warm climate.
Advertising a New England town coupled with a local accent, a woman sported a message that read, “Baa Ha Ba, Maine,” offering a connection to the Bar Harbor tourist destination along the coast of Maine that is a short drive to Acadia National Park.
A young boy urged people on his T- shirt to “Be the Change,” an expression that an actor or actress might borrow to spread a specific message after winning a coveted award for performing their craft.
Offering a take on the fine art of putting off responsibilities and chores, a young man wore a shirt that said, “I don’t procrastinate. I delegate to my future self.” After reading so many variations of the theme that the procrastinators club would be meeting some time next week, I enjoyed a refreshing take on the process of setting something aside for a later time.
An older man with white hair and a thick white mustache and beard brought along two noteworthy T-shirts: The first celebrated his 80 years, as part of a beach tour, and the second promised that “Beneath this beard is a handsome man.”