“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”―Ralph Waldo Emerson
A few days each week during the winter I work in a giant laboratory studying the behavior of vast numbers of people. My specific areas of interest are the characteristics of patience and kindness while in pursuit of happiness and outdoor adventure. More specifically, I am a greeter at a New England ski area. From this vantage point I have face-to-face contact with hundreds of men, women and children of all ages. The stories my colleagues and I collect could fill a book. (Hey, that’s an idea!)
One of a Greeter’s responsibilities, beyond welcoming guests and answering basic questions, is to be sure each visitor’s wait in the line to purchase lift tickets is as short as possible, hopefully no more that 7-15 minutes on the most crowded days. This is no mean feat in the age of data collection required for the issuance of a re-usable RFID card that can be detected by a scanner in the pocket of even the most high tech parka. We also draw the short straw sometimes and have to facilitate traffic flow in the “drop off” area. If the entire ski area is the laboratory, then this particular area is the active Petri dish. . Maybe we should put up a sign that says, “Remember! Children are watching and listening.”
If I was looking to hire people to build a team for a task that required intense, cooperative effort in a stressful situation, I’d insist on seeing videos of how these job candidates handled their cars, friends, family and Greeters in the “drop off” area. Surely I’d learn more than any resume or interview could reveal.
Since we Greeters spend most of our time managing ticket lines, that’s where the best stories come from. Just the other day a person was in such a hurry to get his ticket that instead of walking through the short, simple, ten-foot, back and forth maze to the ticket window, this “gentleman” ducked under the ropes to take a more direct route, knocking over several stanchions, which he did not fix. He may have saved a full three seconds getting to the ticket window. I just smiled at him sympathetically. You know, one of those smiles that says, “I hope you get better soon.”
We greeters pick up a wonderful assortment of sound bites or snippets from the hundreds of conversations that swirl around us. My all-time favorite came from two brothers, strolling past with their arms on each other’s shoulders. The older brother looked at his younger sibling and said, “Hey, your wife’s happy and your girlfriend’s happy. I think everything is going to be fine.” Then they disappeared into the crowd leaving me with a number of questions that will forever go unanswered.
I’ve been thinking of asking management to position a large video screen in the ticket line waiting area showing highlights of good and bad behavior of guests collected over the course of the winter season. We would obscure the faces to prevent law suits, but the instructional value would be powerful…and highly entertaining.
Most people waiting in line to purchase tickets fall into one of three categories:
Group A. “I am too important to have to wait in line with all of these other people. Can’t you do something?”
Group B. “It’s too bad the wait is so long. Have you considered ways that might make things move more efficiently?”
Group C. “I’m not at work, I’m in a beautiful place and eventually we are going to have a great day on the slopes.”
The hybrid of groups B and C is my personal favorite. By the way, guests can purchase their tickets online at a reduced price and eliminate or greatly shorten their wait in line. It’s a reward for those thoughtful people who plan ahead. Let’s call this Group S for smart.
So how does this all tie in with BESSIE’S STORY? It’s simple. Bessie is the model of patience. She’ll stand with her nose to a door calmly and peacefully if she wants to go outside. When it’s time for breakfast or dinner Bessie sits like an angel without barking, whining or grumbling. In her dark, fragrant world she somehow just knows that we’re going to do the best we can to take care of her needs. When we are going somewhere in the car she’ll hop in and sit calmly as long as necessary. Very few people can follow her example of poise and good manners. The only time Bessie ever acts or behaves as if she is the most important piece of the puzzle is when someone is playing retrieving games with her. She can be a little antsy during these times, but we understand.
I’ve said it before. The best way to make friends and influence people is to BE LIKE BESSIE. It’s not as easy as it sounds.
Some People Have Real Problems
July 12, 2019
“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain, and most do.”―Dale Carnegie
A close friend and dear colleague passed away recently. It was one of those drawn out, troublesome deaths that leave family, friends and loved ones exhausted and confused with swirling emotions. At almost the exact same time our youngest son’s dog, Tui, died on the vet’s operating table less than an hour after collapsing unexpectedly at her owner’s feet. Tui is mentioned several times in BESSIE’S STORY – Watching the Lights Go Out. She was the genius Border collie from New Zealand. Tui’s transition from life to death was sudden and without warning, whereas my friend’s death followed a script all too familiar for people with some life under their belts.
Death. It’s the common thread that weaves the fabric of our lives together―all of us. No matter where we’ve come from or where we’re going, dying is the envelope in the mailbox we all have to open someday. That’s what makes today more important than tomorrow; it’s here, in front of us, guaranteed for the moment. We can do what we want with today.
As a young boy, when complaining about something that was bothering me, my mother used to say, “Tommy, some people have real problems.” The lesson buried in that short sentence has come in handy, reminding me not to be a boring, tedious grumbler. There are enough of those kinds of people in the world, don’t you think? If you give them time they will passionately inform you what’s wrong in their lives and whose fault it is. Spare me. Sit somewhere else, would you please.
The recent passings of my friend whose life defined what a good person should be and the dog, Tui, whose life defined what a great pet should be, had the same effect. It was like putting on glasses that allowed me to read the blurry small print clearly, the small print that clarifies the contract of being alive. And onto these curled, well-worn pages of small print walks Blind Bessie, easily the most stoic, loving, hopeful, joyful dog I’ve ever known. She is a great teacher.
Bessie understands one simple thing: She is alive. Yes, alive! And she will not waste time on meaningless minutiae. I’ve had just about enough of people complaining about the weather, traffic, black flies, waiting in lines, running out of time, the internet being down…etc., etc., etc. My eyes glaze over when this all too predictable diatribe begins. For mental health purposes I’ll spend more time with Bessie, my life tutor.
It’s mosquito season in New Hampshire. These pests with a purpose will find you and suck your blood like thirsty vampires fresh out of their coffins. The good thing about mosquitos is that they keep people inside, which make the outdoors more peaceful and free of complainers.
The other day while driving I noticed a mosquito inside the car buzzing around the windshield. In an attempt to direct this flying hypodermic needle out of the opened window I lost focus for an instant and almost swerved off the road. It’s scary to think about what might have happened if I didn’t refocus. Yes, a mosquito can cause a car crash; a tiny thing can cause a big problem if you’re not careful. So… don’t let that happen. Read the fine print that carries the big message. Pay attention to LIVING!
Well done is better than well said. —Benjamin Franklin
Momentum begins gradually and then accelerates suddenly. Bessie’s notoriety seems to be progressing that way. Since the original book signing event at the Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington Depot, CT in late October we’ve sold over 800 books and been featured at five book readings with more scheduled in January. Here is a listing of Bessie’s appearances to date and scheduled events for January 2019:
October 26, Hickory Stick Bookshop, Washington Depot, CT – Over one hundred people attended the launch event for BESSIE’S STORY – Watching the Lights Go Out.
October 29, Rumsey Hall School, Washington Depot, CT – Students and teachers in grades K-9 were introduced to Bessie through a personal appearance, a sequence of inspiring videos and selected readings. The kids LOVED her, and learned some things, too.
December 9, Acworth Silsby Library, Acworth, NH – Bessie was allowed to participate in this well-attended event in the beautiful reading room of this historic building.
December 13, Disnard Elementary School, Claremont, NH – Bessie visited with the fourth grade students and charmed them with her subtle, powerful spirit. One little boy was moved to tears by Bessie’s bravery and irrepressible joy.
December 22, The Village Store, South Acworth, NH – This historic general store has been in continuous operation since the 1860s. Bessie was right at home at this reading/signing gathering, sleeping soundly on the wide board floors in the midst of a group of new best friends.
January 8, Aspen Elementary School, Aspen, CO
January 15, Reading/signing hosted by Woodcrest Village, New London, NH.