Arriving in Vail during the off season radically accentuated the differences between the corporate world of South Florida and the lifestyle in the Vail Valley. Where I had been continually surrounded by the masses, I was catapulted into a “where are the people” experience. Honestly, I only knew Vail as being world renowned and would never have expected it to only have a resident population of around 4,800. Of course, I immediately found out that the population swells to 35,000 in high season. If I hadn’t been told this by Commander Steve of the town of Vail police department, I would have thought it was a joke. Hopefully, they don’t all arrive at the same time and throw me into a psychotic episode of some sort!
I found myself quite fortunate to have landed here just as the annual need for seasonal employees made prospective jobs plentiful. As stirring as this discovery was, learning that the town of Vail provided a transit system throughout the valley as a free service to the public was simply astonishing. To this city girl, “governmental courtesy” such as this is a contradiction of terms and, quite honestly, perplexing. Nonetheless, I promptly began to explore and rode the buses daily.
Being a front row personality, the minimal passengers during the off season granted me the opportunity to talk to the bus drivers. I was quite intrigued by the personalities of these unique individuals and came to know most of them on a first name basis: Jim, Bob, John, Benita, Chris, Ben, Alex, Ernie, Cincinnati (or Cincy as he’s called), Jordan, Ed, Scott, Hal, Craig, Neemias, Dick, Sherry, Mike, Cheryl (“ch” as pronounced in champ) Matt, Namgya and others I may be failing to recall at present. It almost reminds me of a Biblical genealogy I memorized in Bible school! Yes, I’m also a 20-year ordained minister (keeps it interesting, doesn’t it?) and, no, I’m not indicating that they’re saint like. Yet they appeared to be very relaxed individuals who were very friendly and helpful. I believe in Rocky Mountain terms it’s called “laid back.”
I talked at length with one driver in particular by the name of Cindy Van Hoose who made an immediate impression on me: middle-aged and physically fit, she drove with the continual trace of a smile on her face that was accentuated with a classy haircut and striking eyes. She has this poise and grace about her that I admire (because I don’t have it!) and actually took a personal interest in helping me as I struggled with the job choices, having applied for various sales and customer service positions.
Graciously, Cindy would allow me to vent my frustration ” dregs from my corporate stress and having no idea what would be completely different. “You’ll figure it out. Everything is going to be fine,” was her daily mantra that gave me strength. Benita was another one who kept reassuring me that everything would work out.
I had noticed an ad for transit drivers for the Town of Vail, but had initially disregarded it due to my professional background. Yet as I grew to know these people, my mind took a hard right turn (or “square turn,” as Jordan would call it). Me? A bus driver? Well, I DID move here to have a different lifestyle, didn’t I?
I was now on a mission and began to ride the different routes relentlessly, observing every movement, action and maneuver, including the locations at which they made their stops. When I told Cindy I was considering applying she urged me to move forward quickly before it got too close to high season and the town of Vail employee housing ran out. Employee housing? Another governmental courtesy? What planet is this anyway?
When I entered the transit office in the Transportation Center to begin the process, there was only one individual there. Of Japanese descent, he had a long dark ponytail down to his hips and looked like someone who’d be hanging 10 on a surfboard in Hawaii but (I thought), hey, this is Vail. “I’m looking for Rich,” I told him.
“That would be me,” he replied. A pleasantly relaxed individual (at least prior to fantasy football season) I enjoyed my interview with him and began the not-so-simple process. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get very far into the process until I secured a permanent address. I thought I was sunk at this point. Nearly out of money and shortly to run out of my generous stay at Eagle Point Resort I told Rich I didn’t know what to do to resolve it. “I’ll have you call Susie Hervert who handles our employee housing and see what she can do. Call me after you have a permanent address,” he said. I thought it was futile.
I don’t even know how to describe my meeting with Susie and her determination to make it work for me. There was only one slot available. The town of Vail Librarian lived in a two-bedroom condo in East Vail and they were having trouble renting out the second unit, as there aren’t typically a lot of women in their 50s, who are single and taking on work for the town of Vail. I had my apprehensions until I saw the unit, a very nice condo with the front window view of the mountain across from the East Vail grocery store. Cool.
Now I have to say I love libraries, but am very uneducated as to their operation and staffing. I was still stuck in the “Marion the Librarian” imagery from “The Music Man,” and was really hoping to be in a studio apartment by myself. Susie took me over to meet Lori Barnes and she was everything BUT a Marion. She’s an awesome person, very cool, and from the very start welcomed me with kindness and generosity. In just a few weeks I’ve grown to consider her a friend, which says it all.
The whole process just left me feeling like “oh me of little faith.” I try not to be too hard on myself and remember that it’s been a very long time since I’ve seen a light at the end of the tunnel besides a train! Instead of a dark rain cloud following me around as it had for years, it seemed like there was a rainbow hanging over my head. Who rolled out the red velvet carpet for me? Perhaps it’s just the Velvet of Vail!
Next week … training with Jordan (you can run but you can’t hide) and the woman who “paid it forward” to me with a car for the winter …
Theresa Cummings recently moved to Vail. Her columns document her transition to the High Country lifestyle. E-mail comments to email@example.com. Submit your guest column to valley firstname.lastname@example.org.
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