It’s the end of a long, cold day of skiing. It snowed all day and the wind on top of Loveland pass was brutal enough to keep the tourists driving on towards Vail and leave the fresh powder for us hardy locals. My daughter and I are tired, wind-burned and muted as we absorb the warmth of the truck heater. The hot blast, added to the affects of a day in the wind and cold, has turned our faces a deep red and our muscles into jelly. The “Après Ski” mood is heavy and pleasant. The big snowflakes and the swish of tires on the road compliments the mood. We’re listening to the Beatles as we enjoy the quiet, easy friendship of each other’s company. We’re comfortable in silence – always have been. We don’t have to fill the air with idle chat. We’ll wait until something needs to be said.
As we cruise through the slush of the interstate through Idaho Springs, we suddenly break the silence in unison, “What the …?” Half running, half walking on the shoulder of the road, a man in a 3-piece suit is tugging along two rolling suitcases. The big one looks heavy – his face is red from exertion. The smaller carry-on bag bumps and swerves, jumps off the pavement, then twists in his hand, causing him to stop and collect his balance and alignment before starting off again at a careening sprint. He doesn’t look up at us in embarrassment. He doesn’t even look back quizzically like most of do when we trip on the non-existent crack in the path. He doesn’t thrust out his thumb in hopes of catching a ride, even though there are many cars for him to choose from and the chances are probably good he’d not have to walk for long if he only tried. He just doggedly keeps on like he’s nearing his destination. But what destination? The nearest exit is a couple of miles ahead and the nearest airport is 50 miles on the other side of Denver.
Is this the proverbial traveling salesman, chased from the farmer’s house where he has stolen the reputation of the oh-so-nubile, ostensibly naïve, yet undoubtedly willing, daughter and is now in such a hurry to escape the farmer’s shotgun that he’s had time to grab only his suitcases full o’ Fuller Brushes but left his car keys on the vanity? His own vanity, only minutes ago in full bloom, now overshadowed by his fear of death and his hope that the shotgun is loaded with rock salt and not buckshot. Clearly not thinking clearly of the best mode of escape, only thinking that he must!
Is this the dim-witted businessman who, returning from the mortgage-bankers conference at the Vail Weston with his wife, gave the wrong answer to the famous trick question, “Do I look fat in this outfit?” and now has to find his own way home? He too, could stick out a thumb but is perhaps too embarrassed at being laid low by the oldest ambush in the book of marriage. And, knowing that he’s a double loser for not getting his testicles out of his wife’s purse before being unceremoniously dumped on the highway, he can’t stand the thought of looking another man in the eye for some time to come, so his thumb stays wrapped around the suitcase handle.
Is this a well-dressed hitch-hiker who criminally absconded with his generous host’s travel gear after knocking out his do-gooder host (whose wife and mother had always cautioned him to not pick up strangers but was always oblivious to his own fallibility and so never thought it could happen to him) and is now trying to make the next exit before the hapless ride-giver awakens and comes rudely searching for him? But then, why steal the suitcases and not the car?
Is this a homeless man with a sense of style who maybe lives in his big suitcase and is running from some real or imagined threat, his home-on-wheels in one hand and his sum total earthly possessions in the careening carry-on in his other? Maybe there’s a bear that chased him from his woodsy hideaway and is just out of our sight on the side of the road, trying not to laugh at the same scene that we find hilarious. The bear saying to his friend, the moose, as he stares at the clip-on tie that is snagged on his claw, “Dang man, I was so close to having that guy for dinner.”Now, months and two seasons later, we’ll never know the real story. Unfortunately, the real story is probably boring and nowhere near as fun and interesting as the scenarios presented by the fertile, well-watered and freshly-plowed field of human imagination.