I travel a lot, and I’m always amazed at how many people I meet with Oklahoma connections. Years ago, while I was in Moscow, Enid attorney Stephen Jones ” the man who would defend Oklahoma City federal building bomber Timothy McVeigh ” walked up to me and introduced himself. You don’t expect to meet people from Enid while you’re in the Soviet Union!
While walking through the Louvre Museum in Paris wearing a shirt from a local radio station I did commentary for, a guy walked up and asked if I was Vince Orza from Oklahoma City. A few years later, I was in Florence and Rome and kept crossing paths with a man wearing a Garfield’s Restaurant shirt.
Perhaps one of the strangest Oklahoma connections came while my wife, Patti, and I were walking around Bangkok, Thailand. While we were sightseeing and trying to figure out a map, a Thai man stopped to offer his assistance. He asked where we were from, and I replied the United States. He asked where; I said Oklahoma. Without missing a beat, he asked, “Stillwater?” I said, “How do you know about Stillwater, Oklahoma?” His reply was, “Oklahoma State University ” home of the Cowboys,” where he had a brother attending school.
Likewise, just a few weeks ago, we were on a river cruise in Burma. We struck up a conversation with an elderly Californian couple who asked where we were from. When I said Oklahoma, the man began to sing the praises of the many “Okies” he had known during the Great Depression. He was a superintendent of schools in Bakersfield, Calif., when thousands of Oklahomans moved there seeking refuge from the Dust Bowl. In his eyes, Oklahomans were the best of America, and he still attends monthly reunions with many of the Oklahoma transplants who remained in California.
While dining with an Oklahoma friend at the 21 club in New York City years ago, I was introduced to the maître d’, who ” believe it or not ” was from Oklahoma (no, really). Patti and I had a condo in Cancún for many years. Little did we realize that Cancún was like a little Oklahoma City during the summer months when dozens of area families go south for vacations at the Royal Resorts. On a Caribbean cruise a few years ago, I was visiting with a crew member about where she went to college. She said she attended a small school in the Midwest. You guessed it: She was a dance major at Oklahoma City University.
After both my gubernatorial campaigns, Patti and I left town for cruises to get away from politics. During the 1990 campaign, The Oklahoman grilled me two Sundays before the runoff primary election with an editorial sporting the headline “Orza Is the Worst.” We flew to Venice for a Windstar Cruise. While I was standing at the purser’s desk to cash a traveler’s check, the purser said, “Thank you, Mr. Orza.” At that exact moment, a man standing next to me turned his head to look straight at me. He introduced himself “¦ as an employee of The Oklahoman!
Déjà vu all over again when after my 2002 campaign we left town again to avoid politics. We flew to Florida to board a Panama Canal cruise where not 20 minutes after we boarded ” small world ” we met one of our big Tulsa supporters.
Having spent nearly three decades in the public eye as a result of television and politics, Patti and I decided to plan ahead for our retirement, and we purchased a home in Scottsdale, Ariz., in a secluded neighborhood where no one would know us.
We went to play golf at the country club in our neighborhood when, lo and behold, we met the former Fleming Companies chairman, who owned the house a block away and ” by the way ” told us the former president of Liberty Bank lived in the neighborhood, as well.
Small world “¦ big Oklahoma.
Orza is dean of the Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University.