Swoooop! You can almost see the eagle, can’t you? Swoop is defined as
1. to move in a sudden sweep: “The bird swooped down on its prey.”
2. To make a rush or an attack with or as if with a sudden sweeping movement. Often used with down: “The children swooped down on the pile of presents.”
3. v.tr. – To seize or snatch in or as if in a sudden sweeping movement.
This was my nickname in college. At THE Ohio State University. It wasn’t my nickname right away, though. As a matter of fact, I came from a small town about an hour north of Columbus, and grew up as kind of a shy kid. I was the fifth child of seven. Yes, Catholic. I grew up in the era when children were “seen but not heard.” I mostly made sure I wasn’t heard… OR seen!
This could also have been part of the reason that my nickname stuck when it showed up.
Where did the nickname come from? Once upon a time, my new college roommates and I went camping… in Wyoming…. Well, actually we came west to Wyoming to work on the coal silos for the summer, presumably to make money for college tuition. Great plan – we just didn’t execute well. To save money, we lived in a campground. Actually, we lived in a cab-over camper on the back of a Ford King Cab pickup truck. The three of us were 18. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was that it was legal to drink in Wyoming when you were 18.
In the campground was a big sign, and on the sign was a chart. It was a size chart… of the wingspan of the largest birds in America. At the very top was the American condor. Below that was the Trumpeter Swan. Then came the American eagle. My college buddy Lenny said “Back up to that sign, Brian, you must be some kind of “Big Bird.” I backed up to the sign and spread my wings. I fit exactly the wingspan of the American Eagle. Lenny yelled “Swooping Eagle!” and the rest was history. Thank God I didn’t have shorter arms or I might have been named “Buzzard.” Or a bit longer and I might have been “Swanee.”
But I went back to college with the nickname “Swoop” and it changed my life. I think that’s what college is supposed to do, isn’t it?
How many of you have lived in a dorm room? Food is a premium, right? The package of cookies from home becomes fair game for everyone in the room. And if there is only one cookie left on the table and you want it…. What do you do? You “SWOOP” it! The long arms came in handy. So did the nickname. Growing up my older brothers had the longer arms or the faster minds…. Now it was my turn to “Swoop!”
I never had a car in high school and I didn’t really drive that much until I was headed to college in my very first car! That was part of our “graduation package,” I guess. My Dad bought a car for the college student to drive off to start that new life away from home. My Dad (or I) got lucky. He bought me a 1967 Chevy Impala SS for $350. I was ecstatic. I didn’t get it until I came back from Wyoming, though. And then I had the new nickname. The car fit. It was the “Swoop-mobile.”
Life changed for me. Instead of the shy, brainy kid, I was the Swoop! And I had a swooping car! The Chevy Impala Super Sport had a 327 cubic inch engine and a four-barrel carburetor. It literally pushed you back in your seat when you tromped on the accelerator. A new rule was made. If anyone in the car yelled “Swoop!” then the driver (typically me) had to tromp the accelerator and pass whoever was in front. This seemed to work great… most of the time…. Then there was that first winter and I had the foresight to buy retread snow tires for the car. This was in the days when you put snow tires with studs in them on for the winter. I had just picked up the car with four new retread snow tires when we decided to drive to the new mall on the north side of Columbus. And someone yelled “Swoop.”
I tromped the accelerator of course, and passed like a flying eagle! As I went to pull back in, I saw a blur from the corner of my eye. It was a tire! No, it was a tire still on the wheel! Just then the car did something I had never felt before… it tipped backwards to the left while going upwards of 80 miles per hour. Then I realized it was MY back left tire that had just passed me! What do you do when this happens? Slow down, that’s what. And have everyone else in the car move to the right side. We actually found the wheel. We borrowed lug nuts from the other side and put the tire back on. And then what? We went on to the mall, of course!
It really wasn’t just about the car. It really wasn’t just about the long arms. It DID have something to do with fast reflexes, though. “Swooping” changed my outlook to always be prepared for what life had to offer, to say “Yes” quickly and not to stand back and watch someone else say “Yes.” It changed my life from nerd to the Bird of Prey.
“With but a shift in perception, what you thought was miles or lifetimes away may be but feet and moments away — or right in your arms.” ~ Alan Cohen