Marolt: How I nearly ruined College Fair | AspenTimes.com

Marolt: How I nearly ruined College Fair

Roger Marolt
Roger This

One thing they don't teach you in college is how to say, "Sorry, I don't think I'm the guy you're looking for to get the job done."

That's not to say that college is a waste, but had somebody taught me the value of those simple words, they might now have a decent chance of finding a close-in parking spot waiting for them at next weekend's Western Slope College Fair. As it is, there are no guarantees unless you count gridlock.

The problem is not that thousands of kids and parents from every nook and cranny of western Colorado will descend on the Aspen School District campus Sunday to take significant steps toward figuring out what educational opportunities lay ahead at hundreds of well-represented institutions of higher education from every nook and cranny of the United States. The problem is me. That might be an oversimplification, but it's not.

Somebody put me in charge of parking. Why? I'd like to believe it is because word got out about my excellent parking skills. I can parallel park a Ford F-150 towing a sailboat on Main Street at rush hour in a spot that a Prius driver would second-guess. That isn't the reason, though.

I would be flattered if it were because I am an imposing character who casts a long shadow over all roads leading into the V.I.P. parking lot reserved for the hundreds of college representatives who will be pulling in early Sunday morning, and all the scofflaws who scammed the city of Aspen parking meters for years to the tune of more than $800,000 pull quick U-turns the moment they see me clad in neon orange, walkie-talkie to my chapped lips and boot in hand. That isn't the reason, either, though.

Do I have exceptional organizational skills? Ha! You have to ask?

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The truth is that I don't really know why they asked me. I'm sure at this point they don't, either. I guess you could say that circumstances came together so perfectly that everything came apart — I couldn't say "no" any better than they could hear it. I wonder if that happens in other local organizations dependent on volunteers, especially to fill the positions that they really need, that are not glamorous or high-profile or that even require you to look good. It doesn't matter. They got me.

I'm a victim of the event's success. Truth be known, I'd rather be smoking a cheap cigar and bait fishing with a Russian millionaire talking in stilted English about residential real estate than spending an entire Sunday in the fall making sure people are parked efficiently so that they can meet admissions officers who can get them into the schools of their dreams; enjoy all the seminars about getting scholarships and financial aid, being a college athlete and figuring out how to choose a school that works for them; and generally enjoy a bustling, fun local event.

Lots of people work really hard to put this on because it's important. Lots more students, parents and teachers come to the event because it's important. I stand out in the cold waving an oversized glow stick and yelling at folks because everyone wants close-in parking and is so excited to be there that they suddenly can't see bright yellow lines painted on asphalt.

"Take the bus," you say. "Parking at Buttermilk is easy, and shuttles run back and forth continuously all day long." Sure. And who do you think puts out all the signs along the roads to direct people there and round up the posse of orange-vested volunteers to assist parkers there? Yo, that's right; it's me.

Now, I don't want you to think that all this wallowing in self-pity means that parking at the Western Slope College Fair on Sunday is going to be a disaster or that fighting the crowds is going to be such a mess that it will be better to just stay home and chose the next step of your future from a stack of unsolicited glossy college brochures that arrive haphazardly with the rest of the third-class mail.

Oh, I'll be there, all right, but only as a plum with a bullhorn. As it turns out, if you overschedule yourself, grumble and appear to be fairly incompetent, it makes organizers nervous. When organizers get nervous, they figure out ways to give you "a little help." I ended up getting a lot of help. The College Fair has been saved, and it's going to be better than ever! In spite of me.

Roger Marolt owes a debt of gratitude to Carmen Farr Dowley, Kris Ferguson, Kelly Doherty, Gina Francis, Kathy Klug and the rest of the Western Slope College Fair organizers who sweated enough details to completely compensate for him. Contact him at roger@maroltllp.com.

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