Be Like Bessie!


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 reusable 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 in the process, which he did not replace.  He may have saved a full three seconds getting to the ticket window.  I just nodded my head and 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, of course, to prevent lawsuits, 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 label these folks 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.