Thursday, March 5

people listening

You may have noticed that I neglected to include any commentary on my time in Park City. The reason for such an exclusion? Park City is an anomaly as far as my trip is concerned. I had a great time and I got the impression everyone else did as well. The skiing was amazing, particularly considering I have never skied west of Boyne, Michigan. However, I didn't act as an observer like I have through the rest of the trip. There were no sights to see, no true adventures to be had and, quite frankly, I wanted to spend a few days not piecing stories together in my head. Further, I wouldn't want to utilize the eternity that is the Internet and tarnish any of my friends' sterling reputations. Just imagine nine friends from college on a ski trip in possession of nothing but a deck of cards and a lot of beer; you can write your own story.

Inevitably I did spend time musing about my role as a pseudo-journalist/storyteller on this trip. And while none of my thoughts were particularly interesting or worth describing here, they have made me much more aware of the people around me.

In every city, hostel, coffee shop, and National Park visitor center I happened upon, my ears were like a sponge. I tried to decipher foreign languages and looked for subjectivity within the monotonous scripted speech of a tour guide. I listened to scolding parents come within inches of strangling their children and the illiterate teenagers of the text message generation wonder out loud if Native Americans were the same as people from India since they are both referred to as Indians. And I tried not to look completely appalled as a very nice grandfather in Salt Lake City explained to me that the original settlers of North America were white and their skin was turned red after years of sin (Don't know what I'm talking about? See South Park for a history lesson).

In Nephi, Utah, I sat in a booth next to a clean cut couple who spent, at least, twenty minutes ordering food. No, it was not because they ordered everything on the menu. Instead, the wife kept asking the waitress if one item was better than the next. "Which is better, the chicken parmigiana or roast beef au jus? Or what about the cheeseburger and the Caesar salad? Which one is better? And is the draft beer better or should I get a pink lemonade?" At one point the words blurred in my head and all I could hear was my optometrist saying: "Which one is better, A or B? How about 1 or 2? Now 3 or 4?"

The guys who sat on the other side of me were the opposite extreme. Both men looked as though they had just spent the day carrying large amounts of weight through a mud pit. My back was to the filthier more tired-looking man and even though I was closer to him than his colleague across the table I couldn't understand one word he said. It was "urrg" this and "ungh" that. As far as I could tell, I was sitting next to some real, in the flesh Neanderthals. The waitress was very cute and I was worried that they were planning to club her and drag her off to their pickup truck. I planned to warn her until she forgot my hot chocolate. Tough break I guess.

Just remember, if you're at a restaurant and there is a solitary guy sitting by you who looks like a bum yet is wearing designer duds, he's probably on a cross-country road trip and hoping you'll give him some writing material.

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