I try hard to keep my weight evenly distributed on the stretcher but with an almost straight vertical drop to the edge of the forest, it’s not easy to do. Sean and Jennifer are making rodeo sounds as though they’re riding a crazed buck. I hear laughing and Sean shouts back to me.
“You all right, Mary Ann?”
“I think so,” I yell as I grab tighter on the rails.
The safety straps feel as though they’re cutting into my flesh with each bump and twist of the stretcher. I refuse to open my eyes.
Suddenly we come to an abrupt stop and I’m somewhat horizontal again. I open my eyes. Sean and Jennifer stare down at me, breathing hard and dripping sweat from their foreheads. I can see pine trees and a clear blue sky behind them.
“That was the easy part,” says Jennifer. “Now we have to get through this forest.”
“I’m sorry I’m putting you guys through this,” I say.
“Are you kidding? We’re loving it,” says Sean. “I thought I’d skied every corner of Keystone, but this is new to me. The forest ahead of us will be like Level 5 Pacman.”
“I presume you’re good at Pacman?”
“The best,” says Sean with a smile.
# # #
One major advantage to our waitress promotion: pockets full of instant cash. Alicia was right. Four-star resort guests tend to be generous tippers.
On our days off, we’d hitchhike to Breckenridge for window-shopping and lunch. We were oblivious to the dangers of hitching. It seemed like everyone did it in the mountains and we’d never heard of any foul play amongst our growing group of friends.
I loved these short jaunts for their sightseeing value. In my three months in the Rocky Mountains, I never got tired of the snow-dipped mountain peaks, the endless blue skies, the tree-lined vistas stretching out for miles. We were young and free as birds in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Except when I was back at the Brassier. I was having a hard time fitting in to the waitress world. Not only was I on the Southern belles’ hit list for pouring coffee at their tables (“I don’t care how many times the customer waves you over — don’t go anywhere near my tables.”), but for some reason, I couldn’t balance a tray over my head.
In our training session, we learned that every item brought out of the kitchen must be placed on a large circular tray and hoisted overhead.
On my first day, a clean-cut, thirtyish-looking man, sat alone at a table on the patio reading the Wall Street Journal.
“Good morning,” I said cheerfully. “What can I get you today?”
“Just a cup of coffee for now,” he said.
I grabbed a pot at the heating station and filled his cup.
“May I have some cream please?”
“Oh sure. I’m sorry, it should be on the table. I’ll be right back.”
Heading to the kitchen, I placed a small cream decanter on a giant round tray lifted it over my head and headed back to the table.
“Here you go,” I said.
Just before grabbing the creamer, I tipped the tray slightly forward. The cream came tumbling off, bounced off my customer’s shoulder and landed in his lap.
He jumped up quickly, as I sheepishly grabbed a napkin and tried to dry his shirt.
“I’m so sorry,” I said, my face beating red. “You’re only my second customer.”
“I hate to see what you did to the first one,” he replied with a laugh.
Relieved that he took the splattering lightly, I offered to pay for his dry-cleaning and comp his breakfast.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “Just bring me another cup of coffee, please.”
Later, when I returned to the empty table, I found a $10 bill tucked neatly under the creamer.
It would be the first of many spills, before the manager had to let me go. I happily took another job as a resort landscaper where equilibrium played no role and the Southern belles dared not venture.