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Vagneur : Stories from the line

Tony Vagneur
Saddle Sore
Tony Vagneur

It was a simple plan. On the way to a meeting in West Glenwood, I would stop by the main Glenwood post office, mail a letter, and get a new roll of stamps (My post office was out). Although I used to stop there with varied frequency, I hadn’t been there in 20 years or more. Curiosity drew me in as much as anything. 

Driving my horse-trailer-pulling, four-door Dodge, I was worried about parking, but it was amazingly just like the old days — a parking space out front. Inside, five or six people ahead of me in line, nothing outrageous, and everyone who passed by on their way to the boxes behind us had a smile, sometimes a polite hello. Christmas spirit, I reckon. 

Then, the lady behind me starting talking about odds and ends, and, turning around, I noticed there were about 10 or 12 people behind us, starting to curl around out of sight to where the majority of boxes were located, most still smiling, or at least in a recognizable good mood. The customers ahead of me, including the man who had 10 “special delivery” boxes, were moving at a snail’s pace, and, in my penchant for sometimes talking too much and telling stories, I began to talk about the long line I was in years ago at the Department of Motor Vehicles office over in the mall. 



My paperwork was all in order to re-instate my commercial driver’s license — the medical report, the insurance information, proof of residency, driving-test report — a handful at least, and, after a long wait, it was my turn to talk with one of the two agents on duty. My goal was near. 

After cursorily leafing through the sheaf of papers laid before her, the woman agent said she would be right back and walked out the door behind her desk. A period of about five minutes elapsed before the other agent asked if I was waiting for the lady to come back.




“Yes,” was my reply, to which he responded, “She went to lunch.” Are kidding me?

The five or six people closest behind me got a kick out of that story, even some out-loud laughing, and then the lady behind me gave me a poke, indicating it was my turn to approach the counter.

Just as that customer was leaving and I was about three feet away, the woman behind the counter pulled her “Out to Lunch” sign from under her desk and loudly placed it on the worktop, where everyone, including me, could plainly see it, and walked off. She wasn’t kidding.

As the old saying goes, “You can’t make this stuff up.” The line (queue, as city slickers say), cracked up at that turn of events.

Back in the day, when one had to personally register for each semester of college, lines were brutally long but necessary, and we all dutifully did our part by remaining civilized about it. A guy who would later become my roommate was getting out of the Army and planned to register for the same fall semester, but he had a better idea. 

He arrived in an Army helicopter, which landed in an open expanse just outside the registration hall. In full uniform, he disembarked from the chopper and, briefcase in hand, walked briskly up the steps into the hall and to the front of the very long line. He got away with it. 

People today get cranky about a longish line at the bottom of 3, otherwise known as Ajax Express — too young or too addled to remember the days when single-chair Lift 1 was the only conveyance from the bottom to get you up the mountain past Little Nell.  

The line at Lift 1 could get long — very long, sometimes maybe even an hour or more — but it wasn’t the bother one might think. For one thing, it beat walking, and friendships were made along the way. Some folks had their first ski lesson while waiting for the line to move, like trying a snowplow to catch up to the person in front of them. Or sliding down on their butts. Or great aerial tricks by those with long ski poles. Or the woman on a warm spring day who stripped down to her white bra and well-tanned skin. All the cool kids had long thongs.   

One day, I helped a beautiful girl in line from South Carolina who was having trouble with her bindings. I got her straightened out on that but had a hard time understanding her deep Southern drawl. She invited me to go to the movies at the Isis with her and her family. It was love at first sight. We were 12.

Lines — they ain’t all bad. Besides, it’s Christmas. Merry Christmas! 

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at ajv@sopris.net.