Biff America: Don’t judge a snowboarder by his cover
“You must hate people like us.”
What was I supposed to say to that? What kind of person did that guy think I was? More importantly, what about he and his buddy did he assume I’d hate? Was it the fact that they were black, cops or snowboarders?
Couldn’t he tell by my demeanor and earring that I’m an open-minded liberal and, as such, am very accepting? We liberals have an unstated agreement to embrace all minorities (with the exception of those minorities not granted the liberal seal of approval.)
Then it dawned on me that perhaps the two guys on the chairlift with me – in addition to being black, cops and snowboarders – might also be gay. I leaned down and looked across the lift to see if the dude sitting two seats away was an apparent partner, but there was no way of telling. Both did look similar: big, early 40s, black and a snowboarder.
I was riding single on the chairlift and got on with five other people. I struck up a conversation with the guy next to me. Mostly I was answering questions about the best terrain for intermediate snowboarders and restaurant recommendations. Both were dressed in nice ski clothing and each wore an identical hat with “Police” stenciled on the front. When I asked, I was told they were both police officers from Texas.
It was about halfway to the top – after I’d answered all of their questions – when the cop next to me dropped the bomb: “You must hate people like us.”
I was in a very difficult position. What about them did they assume that I find offensive?
Since they were obviously black, should I tell them I certainly am not a racist? Should I say I have nothing against cops (now that I’m mostly legal), since I also knew they were were policemen? Or should I go with my supposition that they were a “couple” and say that some of my best friends are gay and that I also have a couple of friends who snowboard?
My first inclination was to say simply “I LOVE people like you.” But I worried they might misinterpret my fondness and invite me for a three-some. So to play it safe I answered the question with a question and asked, “Why would I hate people like you?”
The guy sitting next to me answered, “Because we are tourists.”
Now for that I had a response: “If it wasn’t for tourists, I’d be working in a mine, and I’m not built for that.”
We had about a couple of hundred meters till we would all disembark, so I had to talk and listen fast. I was told they were both here with their families and that their wives and kids had slept in. I asked if they have had a good experience and were treated well while visiting my resort community. They assured me they had. They went on to say they were treated better here than some other places they had skied over the years.
I was happy to hear that, but then the guy added: “But you know, even when someone is trying to be nice you can often feel their impatience and even intolerance for tourists – but maybe that’s just the suspicious cop in me imagining that.”
I didn’t say it, but I had to agree that sometimes – especially later in the season – I can sense a lack of patience emanating from those of us who interact with our lifeblood: the visitors.
It seems better this year. I’m guessing due to this down economy business owners are particularly vigilant that their customer have a good experience and make sure the staff complies. After the last couple of lean years, we are more appreciative of those who come to visit and spend. (Kind of like how everyone looks more attractive at last call – or so I’m told.)
I said as much to my two new friends. I told them that most all of us who call the mountains our home know we would not be able to live here were it not for our guests and that we appreciate them making the effort to come and spend their money and hopefully have some fun. I told them that though I was not technically in the service industry my wife was, and some of our livelihood depends on it.
As we skied off in our separate directions, my last image of the Texas cop was a look of surprise when I told them I was married.
Or it is possible that was just my imagination.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on TV-8 and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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