Rocky Mountain hi and bye

I’ll never forget learning how to tell time. Or more exactly, I’ll never forget struggling to learn how to tell time.

I was in second or third grade. I can’t remember exactly because they didn’t teach us how to tell time in school. Back then, they had a quaint notion it was the family’s duty to teach kids certain things. Like how to tie their shoes, how to use soap and water, and how to behave in public. Also included in that list, was how to tell time.

It took me what seemed like forever. My mother explained and explained, but to no avail.

“OK, see, the big hand tells hours and the little hand tells minutes.”

It all made perfect sense — after I got it. But before I did, it was just one huge, ongoing sloppy boogie. I mean, if the big hand told the minutes, why didn’t the six stand for six minutes? How in hades was the six supposed to be thirty?

After I asked that (which I did repeatedly), she’d patiently explain the six represented half the hour, so it always represented 30, just like the nine represented 45.

I’d nod, as if I understood what she said. Meanwhile, for all the good her explaining did, she could’ve been speaking in Urdu.

Obviously, at some point I learned … for all the good it did me. So now I could sit in a classroom and stare at the big Seth Thomas on the wall and know, exactly, how much longer I had to sit there, suffering (suffice it to say, when it came to my formative years, school and I shared a serious psycho-social disconnect).

All right, I know that being able to tell time is vital when you live in and industrialized society. Gotta know when to wake up, gotta know when to leave the house for work, gotta know how much overtime you would’ve made if your boss hadn’t screwed you out of it.

So I played the Time Game – but I did it under silent protest. See, the fact is I’m chronometrically-challenged. In a rational sense, I understand precise time orientation and the reasons for it. Emotionally, I just don’t give a tiddly-doo. If I’m allowed to, I follow not the agreed-upon times, but my own. I eat when I’m hungry, I go to sleep when I’m tired (really late). I wake when I want (also really late, unless Purrsia has hunger pangs).

When I worked, that’s how I lived during my vacations. Since I’ve retired, that’s how I live all the time. Not only don’t I wear a watch now; I don’t even know where it is. Nor do I care.

In spite of my laissez faire attitude toward time, nothing has ever gone awry. Or should I say, almost nothing has gone awry.

A best laid plan …

Every winter, my brother and sis-in-law, along with my nephew and his family, take a ski vacation in Colorado. Though they never specifically plan it as such, their trip almost always coincides with the week after Winter Carnival. So with Winter Carnival just over and my debt to society paid in full, I usually join them.

They stay with friends in Frisco; I stay in Vail with my pal Emma Rose and her family. My bro and kin all ski; I don’t. But those differences present no problems. While they’re skiing, I’m hiking or hitting up thrift stores or drinking coffee or something else equally constructive. Then, apres ski (as we Continental types say) we all get together for dinner. So we have enough time both apart and together that no one gets sick of me (or if they do, they can still manage to keep it to themselves).

This year, in order to get the best deal on flights, I booked my trip uncharacteristically early — in early November, believe it or not. As soon as I did, I called my bro and told him. They hadn’t made their reservations, but he said he’d let me know when they did.

About two months later, he called to discuss the trip.

“So when are you leaving?” he asked.

“The Monday after Carnival,” I said. “When are you guys flying out?”

“Monday,” he said.

“Cool,” I said. “And how about Daniel and Becky and the kids?”

“Not sure,” he said.

“All right,” I said, “I’ll call him.”

Which I did. It turned out he hadn’t made his reservations, but said he’d call when he did.

A few days later he called.

“Got the reservations,” he said.

“Groovy,” I said. “When you getting there?”

“On Saturday.”

“And when you leaving?”

“The next Saturday,” he said. “We’ll be there the whole week.”

“Sounds great,” I said. “See you then.”

For me, it’d be a short trip. I’d arrive in Denver late on Monday night, would head up to the mountains on Tuesday morning and would stay there till Saturday eve, when I went back to Denver and took the red eye back. In that amount of time, I figured I could have as much fun as possible with my fam and Emma’s, without any chance of overstaying my welcome. And though lots of peeps don’t like red eye flights, they’re fine with me, since I can sleep anywhere. Plus, my ace travel agent, Martha Wilke, nee Partridge, SLHS alumna, class of ’62, had found the cheapest flight imaginable … leaving from my own backyard – Lake Clear.

The set-up seemed too good to be true. And, as in the case of things that seem too good to be true, it was.

… gone awry

My flights to Denver were on time all the way, and after a good night’s sleep and a breakfast that’d make Dr. Tony Waikman blanch, I called my bro.

After we talked about our flights, he said something about coming up to the mountains.

“Whattaya mean ‘coming up,'” I said. “Aren’t you in Frisco now?”

“No,” he said.

“Then where are you?” I asked.


“Denver?” I said. “When are you coming up to the mountains?”

“Friday,” he said.

Friday? Bloody hell!

I’d just assumed he’d just land in Denver, not stay there. He’d never told me, and I’d forgotten he had friends there.

All right, I thought to myself, so we’ll have only one rendezvous. It could be worse.

And it was.

I’d felt bad about getting my brother’s itinerary wrong, but I consoled myself with having the week to see my nephew.

“Daniel’s already in the mountains, right?” I said.

“Not if Issac Newton had it right.”

“What’s that about?”

“Newton’s law about no piece of matter occupying two places at the same time,” he said. “He’s still in New York.”

“Still in New York?” I said. “But I thought he was coming out on Saturday.”

“He is,” he said. “Next Saturday.”

I sat there, literally dumbstruck.

It was amazing, really, I hadn’t gotten a few things wrong – I’d gotten everything wrong!

Well, not everything: Using a baseball metaphor, I batted .666. I got the day and month right – I was only wrong about the week.

That was small consolation, but a consolation nonetheless.

And that’s the nature of consolations: You take the consolation, no matter how small, because, in terms of the total experience, the consolation is all you’ll get.


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