Tuesday afternoon: That was me, leaning across the counter at a downtown clothing store, reaching for my receipt.
It says a lot about my insecurity or my need to conform, that I was there returning a jacket I bought the day before. It was a strange design for Steamboat -- not a Carhartt, not a fleece vest or wool sweater, not patched-together hippie clothes.
And as soon as I got it home, I knew that it would sit in my closet next to the other clothes that I never wear here. It would collect dust on the shoulders until I pulled it out for the Christmas party or some other once-a-year, dress-to-impress event.
As I returned the jacket, the store owner talked about the fashion of Steamboat.
"It's getting better," she said. "Ten years ago, women lived in Levis and Gramicci. Now, they are starting to buy clothes."
It's not a bad thing to look nice, to dress up, she said. "We don't always have to look 'Grapes of Wrath.'"
That's what she called the style of dress-down Ski Town USA -- "Grapes of Wrath." It was the best description of anything I'd heard in a long time.
I pictured us -- Steinbeck characters:
The moving, questing people were on Lincoln Avenue now. They traveled down the street, empty-eyed and clothes torn.
Dust covered their shoes and knees, and dirt covered their hands. They had not grown up like this, and their senses were still sharp to the ridiculousness of wearing rags. But they did, because this place changed them.
Among them all, one woman. Me. Her hair down over her eyes and her dress wrinkled and twisted, leaving the store after returning her one nice jacket.
Maybe it's an exaggeration, be it a nice one.
Steamboat is casual, but it is not dirty. We bathe. We shower. We just don't tuck our shirts in.
I remember sitting at a table in the Bamboo Market, drinking a cup of coffee and looking onto Ninth Street through that huge picture window. I'd been in town less than a week. I watched people pass as I scribbled descriptions in my journal.
I wrote, "I'll know I truly live in Steamboat when I start wearing Carhartts."
I still don't have a pair, but after losing touch with the outside world for almost two years now, I don't notice it as much anymore -- the dos and don'ts of Steamboat.
Don't: Carry a briefcase.
Do: Wear jeans.
Don't: Wear high heels.
Do: Listen to jam bands.
Don't: Use big words.
Do: Wear hiking boots with dress clothes.
Don't: Spend too much time on your hair.
Do: Talk about ski conditions
Don't: Talk about career ambitions.
Do: Show up at least 10 minutes late for everything.
Don't: Change. This is why most of us moved here.