The cost of living high |

The cost of living high

Residing in the High Country is much like existing in a perpetual wedding day nightmare.

Sure, there is a kind of wedding day love one feels for the mountains. The kind of infatuation that takes your breath away every morning when the sun crests the mountain peaks. But there is also, unfortunately, an outrageous price tag that goes with that love.

And if you’ve held a wedding anytime recently, you know exactly what I mean.

After more than eight years living in the High Country, I’ve come to realize that I’ve been gouged so often it feels like I’ve spent seven of those years appearing in a Three Stooges movie. And now, even my legendary patience is shredding.

I guess the match that touched off this fire for me was a letter I received from my old buddies at Qwest Communications.

It began: “Dear Qwest customer, I have some great news to share with you.”

Most of the time when a High Country business has “some great news for me,” I automatically feel fingers creeping into my pocket, removing my wallet and then fondling one or both of my cheeks. But this letter actually left me feeling somewhat unmolested even though it presupposed that I’m the village idiot.

It seems the marketing people at Qwest want to convince me the Colorado Public Utilities Commission recently approved their request to eliminate residential distance charges – as if cutting my phone rate has ever been their idea or purpose for existence.

Even if this wasn’t their idea, however, it does save me a whopping $5 a month, and more money in my pocket is always a good thing.

I actually find this whole savings things fascinating because eight years ago when we first moved into our house my wife – after receiving our fist phone bill – called the Qwest folks to inquire about those same residential distance charges. Back then, after talking up the chain of command, she discovered there was no one in the company who could tell her why we were being charged extra.

Even when my wife mentioned that our house had been receiving telephone service for more than 20 years, the phone people basically told her “tough.” Mountain people pay more for everything, they said, that’s the way it’s always been, and that’s just the way it will always be.

Mountain folk will always pay extra for the basic services that everyone else gets at a fair rate.

Which, in the end, is exactly the same attitude people have if you’re planning a wedding.

Go into a florist shop and buy a bouquet of roses, lilies or lilacs and you’ll pay the retail price. Now, go into the same flower shop and say you need a bouquet for a wedding and the price inflates bigger than the blunders of George Bush’s reign as president.

And the same thing applies to living in the High Country. Whether the excuse is the cost of transporting goods or the difficulty of finding quality help to provide a service, we, the mountain dwellers, pay a premium on just about everything – a premium so high that a trip to City Market in Breckenridge to pick up two weeks’ worth of groceries runs about the same as most people’s car payments.

Even when you use their Value Card, which is suppose to lessen the cost of popular food items, the prices have been so inflated beforehand that the can of soup you wanted to buy is likely to cost a week’s salary.

Throw in gas prices that are consistently 15 to 20 cents higher a gallon in Summit County than on, say, the planet Mars, and it’s no wonder the only people who can afford to live comfortably in a resort area are people in a league with Lucifer.

Columnist Andrew Gmerek is tired of being ripped off. He talks about High Country trials and tribulations every Friday in this space.

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