Monday, December 26, 2005

Mountain Rescue

In Vermont for Christmas, I spent Sunday morning skiing at “big” mountain. I was surprised, pleasantly, by the preponderance of non-caucasian skiers on the slopes that day. Perhaps it’s because it was Christmas morning, and all good WASPs were home opening presents. But I hoped it was because skiing has become a bit more democratic in recent years.

On my last run, curving around a twisty but nearly flat trail back to the parking lot, I rounded a corner to find what appeared to be an entire extended family of Indian (asian subcontinent) persons. Most of them were casually standing around on their skis, while one woman was sprawled motionless in an uncomfortable-looking position in the snow. Seeing me, she said, in a heavy accent, “Please! Help me! Help me take my skis off!” No one in her party appeared interested in the situation.

“Are you hurt?”, I asked.

“No, no, I just can’t take my skis off. I need to slide down on my bum.”

I glanced around at her colleagues, with an expression meant to convey, “How about giving her a hand?”, but only blank looks responded. The woman on the ground flailed slightly and again entreated my help. I popped off my skis, got down in the snow, and popped off her skis.

“Oh, thank you! Such a good man! Such a good man! Always, it is this same hill, every time!”

She took her skis, one in each hand, and proceeded to slide down the hill on her bum, as promised. The incline was so minimal, though, that she really couldn’t slide, and appeared more like a crab dragging herself along. Her companions puttered along beside. I slushed down the last 30 seconds to the car, wondering what the whole scene meant. Maybe no one in the party knew how to take skis off? Or maybe this happened every ten minutes, and they had decided not to enable her antics any more? Or maybe there is some cultural prohibition about male family members manipulating objects attached to the feet of female relatives? Or maybe, out of extreme caution, they were waiting for a ski patroller to appear (and mistaken me for one—my outfit looking similar to the patroller uniform)?

Driving away, I mused “Hmmm… ski patrol… now that might be a better job than shrinking…”

Also, I considered whether this incident qualified as “saving a life”, but decided probably not.


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