I try hard to not prejudge or hold stereotypes in my heart. Sometimes I fail. It’s in those imperfect moments that Life shows her cards and I realize once again I’ve played the wrong hand.
Ian and I wait in the green chair lift line at Perfect North. The chair holds three so as a party of two we shimmy our skis closer to the front of the loading line and wait for a single rider to make us a party of three.
A black ski mask obscures everything but his eyes. Bulky headphones cover his ears. He slides his snowboard towards us and turns away. Nothing about him invites conversation.
The chair swings around and the three of us board. I. grips the side rail. His face reads TERROR. WHAT DID MY MOM MAKE ME DO? WHY AM I ON THIS MOVING CHAIR? SO HIGH FROM THE GROUND?
I immediately do what I do in high-pressure situations. I talk. I blabble in an effort to comfort but also in an attempt to distract. It’s working. I. looks at me oddly as I go on and on about the lunch selections in the lodge and how hot does hot chocolate have to be before it’s deemed undrinkable.
We’ve halfway to the top when the chair stops. Our feet hang precariously in the air.
I.’s on to my tricks. His grip tightens on the side rail.
“First time skiing?” the masked snowboarder asks. “Having a good time?”
I judged you wrong, I think, and listen as he engages my frightened son in exactly the thing I didn’t think he liked: conversation.
The chair lurches forward as we chug up the mountain.
“Tips up, just like last time,” I instruct as we near the top.
I.’s left ski veers one way and his right ski the other. By the time I realize what’s happened, gravity pulls me down the ramp and off the lift. The snowboarder hops over on his board, extends his hand and pulls my child from the ground and out of the way of the next three skiers.