Take George, long known for his grueling, bumpy, back-road, low-fare bus service to Florida, as one of the van drivers; Adam, consistently seeking to act out his “ground pilot” fantasy, as the other van driver; Sidonie, whose list of alter-names is so long no one any longer remembers her real one; Annie, as resident grump; Joseph, whose anger diffusion is so profuse that it could easily melt the snow on the far side of the mountain; and Monica, whose persistent, ubiquitous cough has approached a frequency equitable with that of rapid submachine gun fire; and you have the makings of a day-long, company-related, synergistic melange superficially described as a “mid-winter ski trip to the Pocono Mountains.”
This expose is not, mind you, an attempt to judge: we all have something and you have to love them. But all day long…!
In order to prepare for the group, Mike and I left the previous evening, stocking up on supplies and stopping for dinner in the jewel state of New Jersey. I understand that it had just adopted the new state slogan of “Jersey: what’s that smell?”
Arriving at our Mount Pocono hotel at 11:45, Mike, originator of the ski trip idea Backpacking Trails Ultimate Backpacking Guide, removed his suitcase from the SUV and walked across the parking lot amid the icicle-like temperatures. Glancing at me with some responsibility and guilt, he cracked the silence, saying, “Okay. You can get your revenge some day by planning a beach trip on a hotter-than-hell day!” I would have smiled, but my mouth had been too frozen to make the movement.
We walked the mile from the lobby to the very large, sofa-adorned room, and immediately looked through the window to admire the mountain view. Instead, we saw the heating unit belonging to the next room.
Aware of my abhorrence for waking up early (in fact, I have no clocks with “a.m.” numbers), Mike attempted to gently approach the subject.
“We have to discuss when we’re going to get up tomorrow,” he stated with some trepidation.
I just looked at him.
“The group will be here at 9:00.”
Again, I just looked at him.
“We should get up at-”
“That’s too early,” I spat.
“No way!” I retorted.
“I didn’t even give a time,” he insisted.
“You didn’t have to,” I advised. “They’re all too early!”
Because of my resistance, I almost felt sorry for him. I said almost! After all, it was my tired butt at stake, not his.
“I’m sure they will leave at 7:00 and be here at 9:00,” he attempted to reason.
Sadly, I had realized for the first time in the six months that I had known him that he had been delusional.
Morning’s light infringed itself round the edges of the curtain in a way I found as welcoming as overweight George in a starving country. There he sat, “the Mike,” on the sofa, dressed and ready to go. I got out of bed, passed him, and asked, “This is 8:00 a.m.?”
“Okay,” I said, “I experienced it” and turned round and went back to bed.
“They have left at 7:00 and will be here in an hour,” he said. I had at least thought that he would have slept off the delusion.
While Mike ate breakfast and I stared into oblivion across from him in my still-comatose, sleep-deprived state, I informed him that I would call George to find out their location. It was 8:15 and, according to Mike’s assessment, they would be there in 45 minutes. George answered and said that they were on the Van Wyck Expressway, five miles from their origin and still more than 100 miles away. That first gloating voice rose up in me that said, I told you we didn’t have to get up at 8:00!
When I informed Mike, he made a contorted facial gesture with his mouth for which there is no English adjective equivalent. “I’m sure they will be here by 10:00,” he returned. It was at this moment that I had wished that I had brought my updated list of psychiatrists. Early delusional detection is the best cure, you know.
With the luggage now reintroduced into the SUV, we drove away from the hotel. If this were the moment when one was supposed to revel in the fulfillment of a full night’s sleep, I thought, then why did I feel like I had had only half of one?
The left turn at the entrance to Big Boulder Ski Resort took us round the frozen, mirror-like Lake Harmony for the minute-long drive to the green, wooden lodge, backed by the numerous slopes leading to it.
We checked in at the central ticket desk and received our hut assignment, a singular, wooden structure complete with tables, chairs, and sofas at the base of the slopes with the somehow-inappropriate name of “Flight Line.”
Driving to the hut’s entrance, we unloaded the car of our supplies and food. I elected to call George again in order to ascertain his location. When I hung up, I advised Mike that they had stopped for gas, but were once again enroute. He acknowledged with a nod. I paused for dramatic effect, and then advised him, “They’re still in New Jersey, you know.” He again launched into his contorted facial expression and my gloating internal voice again said, I told you we didn’t have to get up at 8:00!
Knowing that the group would be tired and hungry after the long, early-morning drive, I advised Mike that we should set up some kind of hot breakfast in the main lodge and we proceeded to walk there. The woman behind the counter said that the breakfast items were already on display and that she could make more if we had had a large group, but “breakfast usually runs until about 10:30,” she finished. It was 10:00 now. Mike assured me that they would be there “within 20 minutes or so.” “So” is a short word for a long time. He obviously did not know this group the way I had.
After a series of cell phone exchanges, we ascertained that they had exited Interstate 80 and would be at the lodge within ten minutes. It was now 11:30. Mike and I went to the parking lot, at the end of the approach road, to usher in the two vans, but after a freezing half hour, neither had appeared. They had telephoned again that they were at the ski resort entrance, marked by the “Big Boulder” sign and ticket booth, yet, after several more minutes, failed to appear.