Zen and the art of waiting in the Winter Park lift line
December 31, 2008
I’m impatient. When someone drives 50 mph and blocks the passing lane on I-70, I tailgate and flick my high beams. I get angry when people fill the supermarket conveyor belt with a week’s worth of groceries despite the “15 items or fewer” sign.
And holiday crowds these days are trying my sanity.
But I know it’s not them; it’s me.
My frustrated reactions to the splendid array of inconsiderate behaviors in this world assume that there is some “right” way to do things (my way) and that someday everyone will see that I’m right and shape up.
Truth is, the world is full of people just as self-involved and impatient as I am, so I’m working on it. But life in our crowded valley these days has my impatience meter spiked, and more than anywhere up on the ski hill.
In Europe, lift lines are a chaotic mob. There are no ropes, just a gang of people pushing and shoving, riding over one another’s skis to get to the front, and smiling and laughing about it all (it drove me crazy). And things at Winter Park and Mary Jane aren’t all that different (all except for the smiling and laughing).
Many skiers check their common sense in the parking lot, and the same guy I see in his camo one-piece careening out of out of control along a catwalk ” yes, he’s out there ” doesn’t know much about lift etiquette or the simple arithmetic required to fill the chair.
Winter Park lifties ” gentle, overworked and underpaid souls that they are ” focus more on scanning passes and finding fun new ways to say “What’s up, dude?” than anything else, which means the lunatics on rental skis are running the asylum and six-pack lifts such as Super Gauge and Panoramic send up groups of two and three while a hundred more stand around looking confused. Why even have a six-person lift?
With recent crowds (word has it Winter Park is posting record skier numbers this Christmas) I find myself playing matchmaker in line. “Hey, are you guys three?” I’ll ask, matching my group with another, but in the inevitable crush at the front of the queue things usually fall apart, and folks in the singles line don’t always fill in the empty spots.
All it takes to speed things up is a plucky lifty with some basic crowd control skills to play traffic cop and group together twos and threes.
It’s something they do at other crowded areas such as Vail and Keystone, and even at nearby SolVista they have someone running interference. The best lift line helpers not only expedite loading but play carnival barker and make it fun.
It really comes back to my own impatience, though. I once told a Zen meditation teacher about my frustrations and asked how to overcome it.
His advice was to stop trying to fix the outside world, and instead change my perspective.
“Find the longest, slowest line at the grocery store ” preferably with a trainee behind the cash register ” and wait there,” he said. “Or just drive 5 miles-per-hour below the speed limit, and let people pass you.”
Maybe the chaotic lift lines are just a test. I’ll keep working on it.
” Charles Agar can be seen sitting in the lotus position in the Super Gauge lift line most mornings. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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