There are two strikingly stylish people behind the desk. One man. One woman. Both are helping the V.I.L.P. (Very-Important-Looking-Person) in front of me. I wait. Patiently. Looking for information brochures. Not wanting to be here any longer than absolutely necessary.
Suddenly, I begin to worry about all the things to which I rarely pay any mind. Should I take off my ski hat now that I’m inside? How many white dog hairs are visible on my maroon wool sweater? Insecurities peak their heads out where they rarely do. For how many days in a row have I worn these Carhartts? Maybe I should have shaved? Such odd, unusual thoughts and feelings.
I glance around at the spotless décor. The cathedral ceiling. The imitation rustic lodge feel. The shiny black Range Rover from Connecticut parked just outside the two large, imposing wooden doors. The whiny, middle-aged (but not admitting it to herself) white woman in the impeccable one-piece ski outfit with matching make-up, struggling to control/talk to/be with her two pre-teen children. They, struggling to grow up and remain children at the same time, already having more than enough to contend with without the added pressures of this first-class second-home asylum.
My thoughts are interrupted by a phone ringing. The stylish woman behind the desk answers it after a couple of rings. Fashionably late, I guess. “Good afternoon. Spectacular Mountain Country Club.” Her voice sings to the caller on the other end. In my mind, I picture a secretary calling for an executive on Wall Street. He too busy wearing his three-piece suit to be bothered. Or a young trophy wife in Fairfield County, telling the Latino nanny to keep her kids quiet. Rolling her eyes in dismay, at her nanny, at her kids, at her life/style. “Well, we are currently putting names on a waiting list. You could be #82.”
I wonder how long it will take for someone to address me. To at least ask me what I’m doing here. I wonder how long I would wait, unnoticed, before finally giving up and leaving. The seconds tick by like hours.
This is an exhausting environment.
I think about my pick-up, parked outside in a spot that threatens the penalty of towing if it is not removed after fifteen minutes. I try not to worry.
I take a quick but deep and reassuring breath.
I try to look like I belong. I do, in a way. I’m no stranger to the growing annoyances of the New England ski mountain experience. The generically groomed trails of blue ice. The over-crowded lodge bursting at the seams with some of the most-entitled people you’d never want to meet. The impending unreality of its gated-community feel. The weekend warriors trying too hard to make it all seem worth it. When it’s not.
Something has gone wrong. Terribly wrong. This place is out of control. It needs to be reined in.
I figure I may as well try. Do my part. And they know it. They know I’ve forsaken them. That I’m refusing to play the game. I’m not fooling anybody.
In the pit of my stomach is the growing nausea of being surrounded by so much plasticity. So much fakeness. I’m sure the proverbial pink elephant must be just around the corner, waiting for someone to notice it. The absurdity of this place.
The stylish woman hangs up the phone and glances over at the stylish man, who is still helping the V.I.L.P. We both know the stylish man doesn’t need any assistance. Dejectedly, she turns my way and smiles.
“May I help you?” It’s a rhetorical question.
“Hi. Yes. I’m looking for information on the club. The folks at the main desk suggested I try the desk here.”
She looks puzzled. Or annoyed. Or both. Obviously, the inferiors at the main desk hadn’t followed the proper protocol. They are never to tell someone to come here to get information. Interested parties are to use the elusive website or make a phone call only. No face-to-face interactions. No Nobodies wandering in off the street. (Or slope.) That bothers the clients of the prestigious Spectacular Mountain Country Club. It makes them feel like they are part of a dynamic environment. It destroys the illusion that they are impervious to society’s Unknowns. Like me, wandering into their space, looking like I don’t belong. Which I pray is true.
“Do you want to be a member?” She tries not to look stunned.
“Yes,” I lie.
“Well, not surprisingly, we’re at full capacity. And there’s about an eighty-person waiting list.” Her tone is firm. Her message clear: Go away. You aren’t welcome here.
I try to remain undismayed. “Well, at this point, I’m really just looking for information. What does being a member in the club entail?”
She reaches for a sheet of information-packed official stationary, hands it to me, and highlights the most exclusive privileges. “Well, there’s a private ski lodge, complete with Lunatic, a fine-dining restaurant that is open to the public on a limited basis” (how did they let that happen? I wonder). “And there are private lockers and changing rooms with showers, private underground parking and valet parking, and a ski valet during the winter season. As well as the usual concierge service, to assist with tee times, ski school, dinner reservations and babysitters.”
The middle-aged woman with the two kids looks like she could use some assistance from the concierge. “Wow. That’s a lot,” I manage.
She manages to continue smiling at me. Eager, I’m sure, to get back to something or somebody else. I think about tipping her when I leave, just to mess with her, then reconsider.
“There is, of course, a one-time fee of $20,000, plus the annual membership fee,” she states matter-of-factly. “If you’d like to leave a check for the $5,000 deposit, and fill out this form, I can put you on the waiting list.”
It takes all of my self-control not to drop to the floor, laughing at the ridiculousness of this request. “Oh. I don’t have my checkbook with me,” I manage.
She doesn’t look the least bit surprised. “I see. Well, I can give you this Waiting List Request Form, and you can mail it in later with your check,” she continues, obviously well trained.
“Yes. That would be fine.” I try to sound self-important. Which is more difficult than I would have thought. “Thank you for your time.” Enough is enough. Time to exit this strange unreality.
She nods. Smiling. Always smiling. “Have a nice day.”
I manage to return the fake smile, look around in dismay one more time, and head out through the imposing doors, half expecting security to be waiting on the other side. (They wouldn’t want to disturb the patrons of the Spectacular Mountain Country Club.)
“Would you please come with us, sir,” they would command, in the kind of tone the V.I.L.P. being assisted at the front desk wished he could employ.
“Is there a problem, officers?” I would respond, noticing that my car was being towed.
“Not if you come with us, sir,” they would politely threaten.
I would be afraid.
They would bring me to a secret room with no windows, located somewhere deep under the frosted ground, far beneath the heated sidewalks of the ski village. They would charge me with being a nuisance in a rich person’s playground.
But I do manage to avoid security. This time.
(Originally appeared in Mountain Gazette.)