This is the story about the time I met a guy and I thought his name was Raven because I couldn’t quite understand him over the hum of skiers in the background. And while being named Raven was cool, it made more sense that his name was Raymond.
We spent just a few minutes together — the time it takes to soar above the ski slopes of mid-Ohio, gaining barely 200 feet in elevation. It was an exceptionally perfect day in the ski world: Cold and sunny without a cloud in the sky. And when you ride a chairlift with a stranger, the first thing you do is talk about the weather.
"I love this weather. It feels so good to be cold!" I said to him, noticing he was not a whippersnapper by any means.
"Usually when it’s this cold I like to board because it takes more energy to jump around, but it’s a little crowded today," he replied.
OK, I thought. Hold the phone. This old guy just told me that when it’s cold he likes to strap a snowboard to his feet because he jumps around and stays warm. I, on the other hand, am the one icing my knees on any given day of the week.
When I asked him about snowboarding he said, "Well I learned to ski in my 40s and then took up snowboarding sometime after that. Something different. Something else to do." If you’ve never attempted snowboarding, tie your feet together and fall over every 30 seconds, either bruising your backside or wondering if your wrists are broken. And this guy did it when he was older than me. I felt like such a whiny wimp.
We continued the ride uphill and talked about what everyone talks about on a chairlift: the going down part. Then he pointed to a massive mound of snow built as a ramp.
"You ever go over those jumps?" he asked.
"Oh, no. I’ve got a bum knee. I’m trying to save it as long as I can."
"Well, if you want, I’ll show you how to go over it so you don’t hurt yourself."
I passed on his offer, but at the top of the hill he paused before we parted ways and told me he’d like to give me something to remember him by. He reached into the depths of an inner jacket pocket, pulled out a small piece of chocolate, and placed it in my outstretched mitten.
I told him I’d save it for later and stalled as I put it away so I could watch him nail that ski jump. He did.
I haven’t eaten the chocolate yet. Instead it’s on a shelf in my kitchen, reminding me to be like Raymond for as long as I can.