I’m not the most optimistic person out there. When presented with a glass filled to the midway point, I’ll conclude that it’s half-full only if the liquid contained therein is something vile like PBR or Coors Light (you don’t grow up in Colorado without becoming a horrendous beer snob).
Even still, there are times where I can’t help but wishing nearby doom-and-gloomers would take a good swig from a cold glass of Shut The Fuck Up, whether it’s half or all the way full. Such an incident occurred on the most recent day that I had a ski lesson. Granted, any job attracts its fair share of eyebrow-raising viewpoints. And when the job description equates in most people’s minds to “ski bum who ran out of couches to crash on,” you’re definitely going to meet a wide array of characters.
That morning alone, I’d listened politely to a long-timer go off on how Obama and the Senate Republicans had this whole fiscal cliff thing staged. If America did pull a Thelma and Louise with it, that was okay, because we were going to stay strong while the euro and yuan took a dive! I’m sure there was more to it, but luckily, morning meeting started, giving me the more comforting sound of the supervisor’s warning to be wary of rocks and other surprise obstacles that might send us and our guests flying into a tree.
But at least that particular instructor hadn’t been part of a cohort featuring me, three other instructors, and our four ten- to eleven-year-old guests. The instructor immediately to my left when we all went into for hot cocoa as a break from the negative temperatures got into a solemn discussion about a ski patroller at Snowmass who’d died in an avalanche. He wasn’t talking in a whisper, either. I cringed and shot a nervous at my 11-year-old charge just to my immediate right when the instructor stage-whispered, “Ski patrol for that many years and not knowing what causes an avalanche? I think she deliberately offed herself.”
“What’s that?” my guest inquired.
“Uh, an avalanche?” I sputtered quasi-hopefully, glaring at my fellow instructor while he continued expounding on his theory. “It’s a, uh, it’s when the snow starts to slide–”
“No, I mean that,” he said dismissively, pointing at the pastry in front of me. I sighed with relief as he accepted my offer of some of the apple crumb cake, trying frantically to think up conversation topics I could start with this kid so he wouldn’t hear my colleague now spouting off about how when he was younger, you could leave your front door unlocked all the goddamn time and now you couldn’t leave your house without getting shot by some lunatic.
Luckily, my guest was more interested in what his friends had to say. By this point, I’d had just about enough of the man to my left, especially as he had the woman across from him, a young mother, looking increasingly worried.
“I really don’t want to be a helicopter parent,” she fretted, “but after hearing all this talk about school shooters and movie theater shooters, I’m afraid to let my son outside when he’s old enough!”
“Those are isolated incidents,” I finally interjected. “It’s the media freaking out because they don’t have enough to fill a twenty-four hour news cycle, and as tragic as these events are, there are actually fewer of them nowadays than there were thirty or forty years ago,” I finished with a glare at my male colleague.
My female colleague visibly slumped with relief, nodding eagerly at my reassurances of what law-enforcement statistics had to say about decreased rates across the board in violent crime. The male colleague, wind taken out of his sails, briskly put his gear on to go back outside. Our four charges, energized by the hot cocoa and sugary treats, darted outside before us old farts even had a chance to zip up our inner shells.
There’s a time and a place for serious discussions about the pitiful state of current affairs. An audible conversation with four children is not it. Granted, I do think children should learn the truth along with strategies of researching and processing sources of information about the world around them, but making all the adults at the table anxious for various reasons is not okay. After all, this is a mountainous Disneyland. We’re being paid to show our guests a magical winter wonderland where the cares of the world remain frozen away across the Continental Divide.
I’d say that no matter who those guests are. Granted, I was particularly fond of the 11-year-old I worked with that day. Not only did he accept my suggestions with gusto and show visible improvement in the short three hours I worked with him, he was also thoughtful and articulate. How could a boy who derisively referred to ski area boundary-jumpers as “ruffians” not melt the beyond-frozen cockles of an English major’s heart?
But even if I’d had particularly obnoxious guests that day, I’d still have been uncomfortable at the least, mortified at most. To my fellow ski instructors and other guest-service oriented professionals, I offer this advice: take it to the internet. There’s an audience for every jaw-dropping opinion you could come up with, and you won’t risk offending people who could feel compelled to either give you a sizable tip or complain to your supervisor based on just one offhand remark.
Personally, I’ll be there to help guide you over some powdery cornices on your way around that fiscal cliff.