After the Fact: Bullwinkle


After a not-exceedingly pleasant experience with a man out of his element in the floral department at a local grocery store, my daughter asked, “What has happened to common courtesy?” A female employee, equally not responsible for the department but who’d been trying to assist us, was “bulldozed” by this very busy man who seemed to think we were, collectively, a bunch of idiots who just didn’t understand the situation.  The customer is not only seldom right, it’s also an imposition if we ask a question or need help. “Customer service” does not. Serve the customer, that is. If you want understanding, look it up: it’s under “U” in your dictionary.

We were more of the “Penny Pitou” school of skiing than anything even remotely resembling Lindsey Voss (though Lindsey seems to spend a comparable amount of time on her “pitou” too) but my mom, sister Micki and I always had a fabulous time skiing in Santa Fe. The slopes there were groomed to within a gnat’s eyelash of being velvet to accommodate the hordes of tourists, anxious to show off their expensive ski wear.

One sunny weekday in early spring, we had the pleasure of sharing the slopes with few.  Lifts were operated by local folks, many from the nearby pueblos, who were friendly and patient to a fault. The gentleman running the pommel lift went overboard in helping us get ourselves, our poles and our skis arranged so the disc could pull us up the hill.  We’d laugh, he’d laugh and we’d be back before long for another trip, a little more proficient each time but still needing help.

“Natasha” (the name we gave her in recounting the story) joined us in the lift line sometime after lunch. Her LOUD and heavily accented voice, straight from the heart of Texas, rang out for miles around as she barked out orders to “Boris.” We assumed he was her husband because he was the only one on the mountain who didn’t hear her. In our jeans and not-matching ski sweaters, we were beneath Natasha’s notice and the lift operator was there solely to assure her personal comfort and success on the slopes. 

Well, Natasha’s first trip was an experience for all of us. Not a good one, but an experience all the same. Micki, mom and I had made two additional runs before she’d skied back down to the lift but the memory had not faded. If you’ve never ridden a pommel lift, it is a disc attached to a spring-loaded pole, dangling from a cable, not something you’d want to try as a novice and only slightly better than the rope tow that will jerk your arm clear out of its shoulder socket.

Natasha presented herself in front of the lift operator with a demand that he “help her NOW.” He did. He pulled the disc down so she could climb aboard. And he let go. The disc slapped her smartly in the tailfeathers and she went sprawling across the track and down the hill while everyone waiting in line laughed. We heard her exclaim as she strode out of sight, “BORIS! WHEA AIR EWE, BORIS?”

“Common courtesy” is a behavior that works both ways. If the waitress at I Hop is slow to wait on you, maybe she’s trying to trade assigned tables with someone else because you were difficult the last time you got pancakes but thought you’d ordered French toast. Try being nicer. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it sure makes you feel good when, on your next visit, they greet you with a smile. And bring extra syrup for your pancakes. If you happen to run into Boris and Natasha, get your order “to go.”

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