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It must be the altitude!

Fri, Jun 29th, 2001
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Monday, July 2, 2001

I wandered off again. This time I dragged my family to a combination business conference and vacation in exotic far away Colorado. This is an annual conference that is scheduled for the same week in June every year. It seems that we leave home right after Memorial Day, go to our conference, return a week later on the Fourth of July, and ten minutes later it is Labor Day. Five minutes after Labor Day is Christmas and then we have eight months of winter until we leave again for our conference in June. Perhaps I exaggerate a bit, but that is the way it seems.

Our conference was held in Breckenridge, Colorado, a place where the altitude and the prices are tremendously high. The natives must think that everybody who comes there has an abundance of red blood cells and cash with a corresponding shortage of common sense. We were told of the dangers of altitude sickness that occurs with disturbing frequency at 10,000 feet above sea level. I think it would be a little hard to sell a tourist attraction around here if you advertised that almost one out of every four visitors would get sick, possibly to the point of death, just from breathing. For those of us who thrive at twelve hundred feet, it was a very breath-taking event. It made us wonder what happens when those high altitude people come down to our level. We get short of breath up there. Do they get "long-of-breath" down here? Do they have to wear paper bags over their heads to avoid hyperventilating?

We found Colorado to be a bit short on a few other things beside air. Patience and civility seemed to be quite rarified, as well. A couple of times we found ourselves being treated in a very un-nice fashion that I might call downright rude if I wasnt so tediously polite. Im not talking about road rudeness. I have come to expect that. After all, almost no one wants to follow a kid-and-luggage-packed eleven-year-old mini-van. Aside from that, there was the Colorado guy who moved my shirt to steal my towel at one of the motel pools. I would have taken offense and said something, but he was a lot bigger than me, quite a bit younger, had several buddies with him, and had just finished a bottle of beer the size of Pikes Peak. I let it pass. There were other times when people in stores butted in line ahead of us as if we were invisible. One of these line-butters had an attack of conscience and actually confessed to the clerk that we had been in line before him. He said this as he received his change and headed for the door as we waited our turn.

Im not always as kind as I could be. After a long days driving, we decided to spend the night at Canon City, Colorado. Canon City is not a very big town, but it is big enough to have a Wal-Mart. We planned to have a picnic in the park that evening, so we asked the greeter at Wal-Mart where the nearest park was. She told us to go down the street and turn left at the light and we would find it. She said, "Turn left." I said, "Turn left?" She said, "Yes, turn left." Even my wife heard her say, "Turn left."

To make a long trip short, the turn should have been right. I suppose I should be grateful that the rest of her directions were more or less accurate. We got to see lots of Canon City before we got turned around. In my hungry and foul mood I made some less than complimentary observations. For example, I noted in my diary that Canon City had more grass growing in the cracks in the middle of their streets than they did on their pathetic lawns. I also noted that there were a considerable number of homes in Canon City that had their family room additions pitched on these pathetic lawns. We also took note of a particularly huge and homely nativity scene (resplendent in mid-June) that elicited an appropriate and somewhat multi-purpose, "Oh, my God" from at least one of our passengers. Like I said, it wasnt really that bad, but the lady with two left hands set me off.

I could go on about the Colorado people and the rudeness we found. It is very difficult to explain. I also found that it was very likely that if you approached someone in Colorado and asked him or her where in Minnesota they were from, they would tell you. It seems that few of those we met in Colorado were natives. What does this mean? How did Minnesotans get so rude? It must be the altitude.

By Wayne Pike

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