Service with a smile 'binds' us all together

Friendly service pops up when you need it most

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— I attended enough "friendly service" seminars this winter to make the Grinch a candidate for the next opening at Welcome Wagon.

And with all those recently learned lessons fresh in my mind, I thought I might head up the mountain Sunday in search of God's own packed powder and some of that good old genuine friendly Steamboat service.

I found the packed powder right where I expected it to be, but the friendly service arrived in an unexpected form.

My skiing companion had rented a pair of the latest, greatest, phat skis for the day. When we arrived at the top of Thunderhead, she was startled to find that her right boot would not fit into the ski.

In fact, the gap between the binding's toe piece and the heel piece was too short by several inches.

We inspected the binding closely and confirmed that sure enough, the left heel piece, which fit properly, was set on numeral 9.5 and the right heel was set on 4.5.

We turned back to the gondola building and spied Ray Vaitkus outside the demo yurt.

Upon hearing our predicament, Mr. Vaitkus invited us inside. He quickly adjusted the bindings and in the process noticed that the release tension (DIN number) on the improperly adjusted ski was also badly off.

The properly adjusted ski had a DIN number of 3 and the other ski was set on 7, the right number for a 195 pound man.

We weren't customers of Ray Vaitkus in the direct sense, but he didn't hesitate to provide the service of readjusting the bindings free of charge.

"No problem. You're on vacation. That's what I'm here for," Ray said cheerfully.

Well, Ray, we weren't exactly on vacation, but you made us feel like we were.

And right after I get done writing this column, I'm going to try and think of a way to let your bosses know what a fine employee they have in you.

Ray personifies Steamboat's genuine friendly service -- the personal touch that we spent so much time yakking about this winter.

He has inspired me to think of some other examples of service that would rate very high on my personal friendly meter.

In the future, when I return to the remote parking lot after an afternoon of skiing, I'd like to find my pickup truck freshly washed and detailed. That would be exceptionally friendly.

It would be swell if the city of Steamboat Springs would hire a river ranger to call me on the cell phone this June when the pale morning duns are hatching in my favorite hole upstream from Rotary Park.

You know the place -- where the side channel flows around that little island and the rainbow trout are feeding right on the seam? Keep in touch.

While we're on the subject of the city, I don't know what we would have done the past two weeks without the tireless snowplow operators who have kept our streets dry.

The man who operates the road grader that comes up my street always has a friendly wave and a quirky little smile right before he plows a wall of slush and ice into my little driveway.

It gives me a warm glow as I crank up the old snowblower one more time. Thank you neighbor!

And another thing. After five years of gleaning highly sensitive personal information about my shopping habits from my value card, don't you think the grocery store should know by now what my family needs to survive?

There are really only eight items we require for basic nutrition: salt-free blue corn tortilla chips, salmon steaks, Berry Berry Kix cereal, cocktail shrimp rings, Cherry Garcia ice cream, Pik of the Chix, lots and lots of 1 percent milk and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (the kind shaped like spirals, not the kind shaped like Rugrats).

Would it be too much to ask the super market to box that list up once a week, deduct the bill from my debit card, bring it over to the dang house and stash it in my ice box? Is this a friendly town or not?

Ahem. Forgive me for getting carried away.

As I reflect on the nature of the sincere friendliness that sets us apart from other resorts, I realize that we must not take it for granted.

Yet, I also fear that we can never legislate friendliness, nor can we train people to be sincere.

Those qualities come from inside.

It is at great peril to my reputation that I advance the theory there are only three corny measures to be taken: be good to one another, celebrate life and as that child actor once said, "pay it forward."

Tom Ross is a longtime Steamboat resident. His column is published every Monday in Steamboat Today.

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