First time on Skis and I am Bob-ed at the pass
"How much longer?" I gaze at the walls of snow shoved to the side of the two lane road.
"We'd get there sooner if this jack in front of us would just move faster." Bob flattens his palm on the horn. He kisses the bumper of the overloaded Volkswagen bus with the lip of the Taurus wagon. I grip the armrest and cringe.
"What's your problem anyway?" The road is icy and slight flutters of snow dot the windshield. "He's doing the best he can. So we get there one car later."
"I want to get there now!" He floors the car, pulls out into the opposing lane and flips his finger high as he whizzes by.
I'm not impressed. I rub the frost off the passenger window with my sleeve and peek through the swirl. The sun is cresting the mountains. The skies clear and quiet. I close my thoughts inward and visualize the slopes. This is my first experience skiing and I'm ready. My survival fanny pack is slumped on the seat. I do a mental repack.
Sunscreen 25, lip block, sunglasses, money, plenty of money, mini flashlight, zip lock bag packed with matches, candle and flare, tissue, whistle, pen and paper to jot my final wishes, small first aid kit and three energy bars.
I'm prepared for survival and do not intend to die lost in the snow. I memorize my keep-my-butt- warm-until-morning-drill and how to build a snow cave.
"Great weather. It's a perfect day for skiing." Bob nudges me with his hand and leans towards the window. The sky is clear of falling snow. The sun bright. "Excited?"
"This is my first time skiing. I feel like a little kid." I touch the wad of money in my pocket, a birthday gift from my kids with a note, "Good for one ski lesson".
I've waited forty odd years for this. I look at my clothes, a hodge podge of all my friend's closets. Black Costco pants, knotted not-so-fleecy hot pink sweatshirt, multi blue headband, green gloves. Not quite the snow bunny attire I imagined.
"We're here!" We follow a line of cars into a scooped out area, a fortress of snow borders the parking lot. Bob and the driver of the VW exchange foul words. I sit on the front seat, door propped open and wait.
"Did you have to march over there and make a scene?" I stretch and take a long glance to see if the guy is coming back with a jack handle.
"It's cool. I told them you made me do it." He flips open the back window, reaches in for his bag and rummages through his clothes. My bag of clothes smacks me in the face. My jacket follows next. Bob is busy flinging my stuff out of the backside.
"What're you doing?" I hug my goods and stare.
"We need to change our clothes." He drops his pants.
"Here?" I look around the parking lot. Bare legs and bikini covered bottoms, legs lift from tailgates, heads wrestle into sweatshirts "Aren't we going to change at the lodge?"
"This is it sweetheart." He zips up his jacket and pulls a knit hat over his lobby ears. "Hurry up the bus is coming." He waves his finger towards a converted school bus chugging down the slushy asphalt.
Scrambling into my ski pants, I zip and twist into place. The collar of the pink pullover clashes with my strawberry blonde strands. I click my survival pack around my waist, grab my duffel bag and my feet slip in the melting snow. I hustle into the bus and land a seat, three heads up from Bob.
I lean back and calm my nerves. This is really happening. I'm going skiing. We pull into a long driveway, the door squeaks open and the adventure begins.
Hands on hips, I pause and breathe in the crisp mountain air. The two story wooden structure looms. Throngs of people push by, "excuse me, move it lady," equipment over shoulder, heading one way - to the slopes.
Bob walks by my side, points to the right and says, "In there. That's where you sign up for lessons."
My stomach flutters. I look in at the unknown. I turn to ask and hey, where's Bob?
I look at the greyhound bus terminal lockers, study the mass of people shoving through and glimpse for the hat with the red twisted ball on top. This must be the aisle for the poor or something. Where's the party people? The ones with the fancy ski outfits sipping bourbon by the fire? I know, this must be the back door.
"I'm out of here. I'm hitting the slopes." Bob pushes through the crowd, turns and waves. "Just go in there, they'll take care of you." He hoists his skis on his shoulder, "I'll meet you for lunch."
On my own. That's not the way I thought this would be. I enter the small room and follow the signs. Window one - liability forms. I sign my life away and move on to the next window.
I spread out my forty dollars and try to make conversation.
"This is my first time."
They nod, clip a lift ticket on my jacket and point to the room across the alley of lockers. I scoop up my paperwork, nod goodby to the ghost of Christmas yet to be and head for the equipment room.
I make friendly with a lady with two small kids. We figure out the routine of getting rental boots and skis and proceed through the line. A quick one minute "this is how you put on your skis", "this is how you get out" and I'm standing in horizonal sticks out in the snow.
I can't believe what I see. No snow bunnies. No fancy lodge. I look back at the building of the rentals and realize this is it. Slush and rows of lockers. I glance at the hills and see multitudes of skiers criss crossing with no particular reason like ants after you run your finger in their path, scattered on the hillside.
A snowboarder zips in front of me, I lose my balance and my rump hits a bump.
"Here let me help you," a gloved hand extends and brings me upright. The world is normal again. "I'm Ryan."
"Thanks." I brush the snow from my pants and add, "This is my first time on skis. My lesson doesn't start for another hour and my bud took off and left me." My skis start to move on the slippery ice and I flay my arms to keep my balance.
"Why don't you stay here awhile?" Strong hands grasp my waist and neutralize my sway. "Point your skis in a wedge."
He gestures with tight hands. "Just like a piece of pizza. That'll keep you in place."
I plant like a pepperoni pizza and freeze. I'm going to stay here until my lesson.
"Look I'm teaching my six-year old son how to ski," Ryan lines us up side-by-side, "I'll teach you, too. Can't have you just hanging there like a statue."
We practice making forward movement and plenty of pizzas. The little guy whizzes down a bump and screams, "Yeah!"
I inch down the bump and cry, "Oh my God!"
An hour passes and I find myself in class with thirty want to be skiers. I introduce myself to the couple downwind and we form a trio. The instructor teaches us baby steps. The men fall faster than the women. We and our sturdy pelvic range of motion slide on by, steady in our flight.
We advance to the tow bar. We line up in roped off areas, four lines total. Slowly we move closer to the rope that will tow us up the hill. We're jazzed and ready to conquer the run.
I slide into place, exhale and size up the approaching bar.
A burly yell orders, "Grab now!"
I tuck my poles under my left arm, reach out to grab the bar with my right hand. The strength of the tow whips my shoulder almost out of the socket. My feet slide sideways under the rope. The force of the tow drags me still on my feet, stretched east and west up the hill. I clamor to find a neutral position, grip the bar with both hands and wonder just what the heck I think I'm doing.
Down the little practice run I go, masterfully, without a drop of my butt in the powder. I'm a skier.
The chuck wagon buffet offers polish dogs and burgers, an assortment of cookies and chips and array of beverages. Hungry sportsmen elbow up on the outdoor cafeteria row of benches and gobble down the food. I plunk down my dog, elbow up and woof it down before the chill sets in.
"I think you're ready for the intermediate slope." Bob puts on his skis. "Come on, let's go." He disappears down the mounds in a puff of powder.
"Bob, I don't think so." I slowly wedge my way down the hill.
"Whatever. How about the beginner hill then?" He leads me to the chair lift.
"I don't want to go on those or up there." Bars of metal, empty of adequate support clang up the hill. I try to back away. I haven't mastered anything yet.
"Wimp." A smile crosses his weathered face but the word stings. I hate a challenge. I don't like Bob.
"I'm not a wimp." Now I'm on a lift rising in the air, headed to the top of the mountain. "Say how do I get off this thing?"
"Slide your butt to the edge of the seat, point your skis up and jump off." With that he drops to the snow.
I'm tangling four feet up in the air, hanging on to the chair.
"You could have told me sooner." I want to kick the top of his stupid head.
The operator stops the contraption, cranks me into a snow packed wheelhouse. The young employee climbs in what used to be a window, snaps off my skis and tells me to follow him out the opening. I drag a leg over the window sill and sink knee deep into the snow drift.
"Hey kiddo. Ready to go down the hill." Bob waits while I secure my equipment and then snakes a trail for me to follow.
My feet go out from under me and I'm down. Bob bellows, pulls out a camera and takes a shot. Blackmail bait, I'm sure. He helps me up and we're on our way.
Standing at the leading edge of the mountain I panic. I'm on top of the Swiss Alps. I don't want to do this. Not now. Not ever.
"Follow me, slowly to the left, then the right." Six feet, seven, I'm down for the count. Up again I'm on my way.
My focus - one foot at a time. Try not to look at the big picture, just one tiny part. I lose my concentration and my skis point straight down the hill. I'm flying. Oh Lord, I'm dying. Fall. Yes, fall. Falling's good. I flop to the hard pack, toboggan on my face and stomach another twelve feet and skid to a stop. A snowboarder dodges my path.
Bob perches over me scowling, "That was embarassing." He waits while I struggle to get back together.
"Aren't you going to help me?" I've decided I should update my will now. I finger the fanny pack. The pen and notepad bulge.
"You've got to learn to get up by yourself."
"I'll do that but not now." I make butt angels on the hill and bite my bottom lip. I am scared, fed up and ready to beg.
"Okay, okay." Mr.-Not-on-My-Friend-Anymore list offers his gangly body for support and I'm looking at the world from the top of the hill again.
Determined to master this huge slope I creap this way and that down the mountainside. My legs spread eagle and I'm doing horizontal splits. I wobble and catch my balance.
Downward I go. I pick up speed, correct too late and ride up an embankment by the trees. Pine needles flutter down my back. A branch smacks me in the cheek.
That's it. I am going to pop these unnatural planks of impending death from my feet, ready to concede to defeat.
Walking is good.
Bob sighs in disgust and skis away.
My Scottish blood curdles. I push and breakway from the side of the run with my poles. Finally I am in position and I perch eye to eye with the inevitable, the base of the hill. My goal - to get to the bottom of the mountain to kill Bob.
He takes off to finish skiing on the expert level and I give thanks. I lean to the right, lean to the left. I cruise down the hill, the wind on my face, the adrenaline in my gut. Wow! I'm skiing.
Forty-five minutes after the lift I breathe at the bottom of the hill. Haven't seen the Bob in over twenty minutes. Haven't fallen in over twenty minutes. I'm still skiing.
We pack up and head for home. I'm pleased with my accomplishment.
"You were horrible." Bob speeds by a SUV and jerks back into our lane.
"What?" I am pissed. "I did great. I got down the hill didn't I?"
I check my body out, no major bruises, no broken bones. I hold my shoulder. It aches. That's my secret. Again, he powers up the wagon and zips by three cars.
"Stop driving like that. You're doing eighty on an icy road," darkness and snow everywhere. "Haven't you heard of black ice?"
A snotty laugh and a sneer, "Black ice. These roads are clear." He flies his hands in all directions. "Besides I was a NASCAR racer. Relax. I know how to handle a car."
"NASCAR drivers don't race in the snow." I watch the trees zip by. "Pull over."
"What?" He is in prime position, the leader of the pack.
"I said pull over." I snatch his jacket and tug harder. "Now."
"You got to pee or something?" He reaches towards the back for a zip lock pee bag.
"Now Bob." The pitch in my voice rattles the window producing an avalanche warning.
"Whatever." He screeches to a halt and I bounce out of the front seat. I unzip my jacket and fling it to the ground. I reach to the lower hem of my shirt and whip it up and over my head. I strip bare naked bra only in the night air. A snap of a clasp and the twin cups dangle on Bob's left shoulder.
"What the heck are you doing?" I sense the exhilaration rising in his pants.
"I'm hitch hiking home." I stomp my feet in the snow, sink ankle deep in the fluff and prepare to let my pants drop to the virgin white.
"Put your clothes back on. You're naked."
"I know." The black coveralls gather at my knees, my bare skin bristles goose bumps with the declining temperature. A car honks and guys whoop. "I'll get picked up sooner this way."
I struggle to pull the legs over my shoes. I lose my wiggle and land bottom up in the snow bank. Bob wraps a blanket over my blue body, scoops me up in his arms and carries me back to the warm car.
"Okay, you win." He slides into the driver's seat. "No more passing, just for you." He adjusts the rear view window and shakes his head, "You're one of a kind."
I shiver under the blanket, crank the heater to full blow and say, "So are you."
I vow no more Bobs.
Stuff a BOB in your Christmas Stocking
NO MORE BOBS
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