Written by Madeline Judge
As anyone who has ever gone to a theme park or ski resort with an odd number of people knows, there is always an extra seat that inevitably gets filled by a “single rider.” During spring break, I spent a day skiing in Colorado with two of my friends, Bethany and Leah. The main chairlift had four seats per chair, and with there only being three of us, we had the pleasure of meeting a new person every time we went up the mountain.
There is a book called “52 Cups of Coffee” that was written by MSU grad Megan Gebhart in which she travels the world talking to 52 strangers over a cup of coffee, one person each week. Bethany was in the process of finishing the book, and we were all inspired by the story and connections the author had made over something as simple as coffee. We decided to stage a similar experiment of our own, and we started asking our chair-mates to share their best words of wisdom. Those 10-minute rides were just enough time to get a feel for the kind of person we were riding with, and we met some very interesting people from all walks of life.
At the end of the day, we had collected a handful of insights into these people’s lives. Some were entertaining, some more pessimistic about the state of the world; some were old, and some were very young. Regardless, their wisdom and advice is worth sharing with you.
- “Go your pace. If it gets too tough, snowplow your way down.” – Older gentleman from Texas as he recommended a new run that we should try. We decided that his advice applied to life as well as skiing.
- “The secret to being rich is to not spend all your money.” – Another Texan whoshared with us the same advice he tells his own children. We were complaining about the price of lift tickets for one day, and he pretended to understand our concerns as his 3-day pass flapped in the wind.
- “Shred the gnar. Whatever your gnar is, do whatever it takes to get you there.” – Young guy from Crested Butte who graduated from college only to take a job cooking for the ski resort. Although he’s not using his college degree at the moment, he is doing what he loves, and he advised us to do the same.
- “Washington, D.C. is the best U.S. city to live in. Also, watch out for the Texas tuck.” – Older gentleman from Vermont who volunteers for the resort and helps with ski safety training. He has lived all over the U.S. for various jobs, and if he ever decided to live in a city again, he would go back to D.C. in a heartbeat. He warned us that the politics will get to you, though. Since starting to volunteer at the resort, he learned that most skiers from Texas tend to think the only way to go down the hill is to tuck your poles in your armpits and go straight down, which has been dubbed the “Texas tuck.” He advised against trying it.
- “Go to grad school as soon as possible, especially if you’re still on your parents’ payroll.” – Grumpy, middle-aged Texan who spent the lift chatting with us and checking his work email simultaneously. He tried to go back to grad school once he had gotten married and started a family, and it was extremely difficult. He recommended that we pursue our Master’s degrees before we get tied up in other things. Incidentally, his 30-year-old is still on his payroll. He also promised to try and keep his 9-year-old from throwing snowballs at us as we got off the lift.
- “Humans don’t have the power to end the world, even though we think we do. Nature is too strong, and its processes will win in the end.” – Same grumpy, middle-aged guy who claimed to be a conservationist but doesn’t believe in global warming. After asking what we are studying at MSU, he launched into how we are being brainwashed by all of our environmental sustainability classes. A self-described “middle-aged oil guy from Texas,” he skeptically asked, “So you’re gonna save the world, huh?” and things got slightly awkward. If there’s one conversation that made me uncomfortable, this was it.
- “Gone Girl is a good movie.” – Young lady who couldn’t think of any words of wisdom under pressure. We did get a huge smile and a wave next time we saw her in line for the lift though, so I guess we weren’t too intimidating.
If we learned anything from our little chairlift chats, it’s that everyone from Texas vacations in Crested Butte during spring break, and people always have a story to tell. Next time you find yourself with an empty seat next to you, I encourage you to engage whoever fills it and learn a little about the people around you. You never know who you might meet.