One of the strange things about working retail is the schedule. People who have never had a retail schedule are often mortified by the days and times that our jobs force us to work. In fairness, the retail schedule takes some getting used to; once accustomed to it, however, it is hard to imagine going back to ‘normal people’ hours.
‘Normal People’ hours. My friends always ask me if it sucks to work weekends and nights while the majority of the world is out playing? The answer is yes and no. It sucks to know that the majority of society is enjoying a day off or done with work for the day. It sucks that my normal friends are heading out on fun adventures while I am stuck inside working. The thing that ‘normal people’ do not see is that on their free time they are competing with the majority of people. Let’s face it, nights and weekends are when the ski mountains, climbing gyms and destinations, hiking trails, etc. are all at their busiest. So while I am stuck at work and missing out on their adventure, I am also missing out on lines at the resort, busy routes at the crag, and crowded trails on the mountain.
If most ‘normal people’ knew about how sweet a retail schedule is, I would have a lot more competition for my job. When most of my friends go to Rumney to climb they find themselves jostling for a parking spot before they even begin to jostle for a route to climb. This is contrary to the scene that I typically arrive at on an average Tuesday morning. For example, I pull into a near empty lot with a list of routes I hope to climb. More often than not I can hike to my route of choice and climb it with no competition. If you stay away from the more popular crags, you can often have the place to yourself. I have been so spoiled by mid week climbing that often if I am free and invited to go to popular places on the weekend I will decline the offer.
The other complaint I hear from my ‘normal’ friends is that it must be impossible to find anyone to do things with during the week. Once again, they are correct: they have a lot bigger pond to fish from when it comes to partners. However, they miss the point that they are out enjoying their preferred activity with every other Tom, Dick, and Harry. Working at Eastern Mountain Sports provides me with a small but skilled, equipped, and motivated set of partners to pick from. Also, fellow EMS employees share the same odd schedule I do (plus being a manager allows me to schedule ‘preferred’ hours for good partners, freeing them up to join me climbing, hiking, or skiing). So while the group of partners available to me is small, they are high quality partners that bring knowledge, skill, and experience to the table.
I went to Mount Wachusett Saturday night to meet a ‘normal’ (school teacher) friend and to do some night skiing. At Mount Wachusett I normally park in the first or second row of the main lot. Saturday night I was forced to park in the third lot and ride the shuttle to the mountain (I knew this was a bad sign). Moving into the ski area I noticed very long lines at both the mid lift and the summit lift and knew immediately that I would spend a great deal more time waiting than skiing that night (sometimes the full lot can be deceptive and the lots are full but the trail empty…this was not one of those days).
After surviving some very long lines and waits, my friend and I found a mid lift chair that does not run often running. This was the equivalent of discovering the holy grail. This mid lift services two trails, one a mini park, and one a short little run. The beauty of this lift is that it is old and slow, and because of this no one was riding it. My friend and I found it much more preferable to ride the slow lift and have it take a little longer than the fast lift and wait in line forever for it. Also, the bulk of the little traffic the lift saw gravitated towards the park, leaving us our own personal ski trail. This discovery further proves my point that with a careful eye one can discover adventure and fun even at a crowded ski resort.
What struck me about the evening was I found myself getting upset by the lines, the people, and the waiting. On the contrary, my friend hardly noticed the lines, waiting, and attitudes of the other skiers. It occurred to me that this was commonplace for him and totally normal. For him this is what the skiing looks like. Sometimes I forget that the retail schedule is a blessing in disguise and I rarely see this ugly side of the mountain. It is strange that what most people see as a huge drawback to my job is actually a great benefit if you choose to exploit it.