For the first time in 28 years of life in Steamboat Springs, I'm thinking about giving up my mail box at the downtown post office.
I know, it doesn't sound like a big deal. It's kind of crazy that I still drive over to Third Street to get my mail. It's especially so because my family has a free slot in a postal cluster box near Whistler Park, and the downtown box costs me rent.
Still, it's hard for me to break with what has become an enduring habit.
Here's the deal: Stopping to pick up my mail downtown is emblematic of small-town life for me. I've always hung on to my P.O. box because I look forward to greeting random acquaintances when I get my mail.
Lately, however, picking up my mail has become a pain in the heinie.
Let me be clear. The soreness in my butt has nothing to do with the postal workers. You could not meet a friendlier bunch. And I still value bumping into people whom I haven't seen in weeks, sometimes months.
The problem is that all of the commotion in Steamboat's downtown has raised the hassle level to the point that I don't want to visit the post office unless it is after 10 p.m. Those two extra left turns required to get to the P.O. box when I'm on my way home from work just take all the fun out of it. It's especially deflating when all I find in my box is a pizza coupon and a credit card offer from my alma mater.
I just don't want to do it any longer.
I imagine I'm not the only longtime Steamboat resident who is beginning to resent the way burgeoning growth in Steamboat is causing them to rethink old habits. The pace of change in Ski Town USA is accelerating to the point that it is a little overwhelming, even disorienting.
I have to laugh at myself when I recall that when my generation arrived in the mid- to late 1970s, a quiet ranching community was struggling to assimilate a bunch of skiing hippies. Call it karma.
A political science professor once taught me that the classical definition of a conservative is "one who resists change." If there is anything I fear more than driving to the post office, it's morphing into a classic neo-con (you're right, that's a contradiction in terms).
So, instead of resisting change, I've decided to embrace it. It's just a little difficult to hug a dump truck and do it with sincerity. Still, the alternative is to turn into a cranky old dude.
At the risk of sounding exceptionally corny, I've decided to practice random acts of kindness while driving through downtown Steamboat - specifically to avoid the cranky old man syndrome.
Just yesterday morning, I stopped in heavy traffic at Sixth Street and Lincoln Avenue because a frightened-looking family of four was standing in the left turn lane at the uncontrolled intersection.
The drivers of the cars behind me weren't overly thrilled. But, in a few seconds, the cars in the right lane also came to a stop and the little gaggle of pedestrians scampered to the north side of Lincoln. Their grateful glances took the edge off my morning commute. The scene reminded me of a children's book my mother used to read to me. I think it was called "Make Way for Ducklings."
It's going to take me a few months to alert all of my many correspondents to my change of address. So, while I still have the attention of all you ducklings out there, would you mind putting my new address in your address books?
Write me at: 1770 Meadow Lane, Steamboat Springs, CO 80487. Or, if you prefer, go online, write and let me know if you have any coping strategies I haven't already thought of.
And remember - don't pull any U-turns on Lincoln Avenue, and practice random acts of kindness. It won't return Steamboat to its former state of sleepiness, but it might make you feel better.
- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org