Ward Ski Night

Being a single Mormon in Utah has its share of peculiarities above and beyond the general oddities of LDS life. Take, as example, the church sponsored and oddly named activities in which we are expected to participate. Activities such as "linger longer", "ward prayer", and "etiquette dinners" are cleverly engineered to get us together so that we can merrily and married-ly copulate and torture a new generation of young Mormons with unrealistic expectations.

Tonight, my ward is engaging in just such activity; the ward ski night. And I, suffering from a minor cold and severe writers' itch, am here to mock it. Like so many church activities, ward ski night seems full of promise but is in fact fraught with peril. We live in Utah, home to the greatest snow on earth, and so it seems serendipitous that we are able to gather at a local ski resort one or two nights each winter with our ward-mates. Surely this is the perfect recipe for the Mormon marriage martini: one measure ward boys, one measure ward girls, shaken well with food, physical activity, and a "For the Beauty of the Earth" moment in all of nature's frozen splendor.

With that combination, surely the engagements will start sprouting up. But after years of Ward Ski Nights, this is the reality:
  • Many people don't know how to ski, even in a place like Utah. While this travesty warrants another separate post, it also has the odd side effect of making it so that very few people actual ski at Ward Ski Night. It all comes down to this: if you give a skier a choice between skiing on a bitterly cold night or watching non-skiers learning to ski, they will probably opt for watching the non-skiers learn to ski -- not surprisingly, watching beginners fumble about on 6 foot planks is far more entertaining that skiing in the cold dark.
  • Night skiing is cold. Seriously people, IT'S COLD. Right now it's 6 degrees on the mountain. (I am not making that up.) And guess what? Girls don't like cold generally. They especially don't like the snotty noses and the freeze dried mascara tears that result from such tundra like temperatures. And, on the male side, night skiing requires cold weather foods like chili, stew and sloppy joe's, which may be among the pantheon of Mormon and Scout Camp foods, but they certainly raise intestinal issues in mixed company, particularly if the resort area is location up some winding canyon road.
  • Finally, Skiing isn't really much of a couple's activity. It's at least as mutually torturous as it is mutually edifying. Sure, there may be moments of cuddling on the lift (depending on sloppy joe consumption), but what about the ride down? Odds are that one person will be much better than the other person, so the slow person worries about slowing down the fast person, while the fast person doesn't want to seem insensitive by going too fast. Or, alternatively the beginner silently curses the intermediate for depositing them on the top of K2 with the admonition, "It's not that bad...", while the intermediate mentally screams, "What is SO HARD about the the making a pizza/french fry?" Don't believe me? Two weeks ago, I was riding a lift at the Canyons with an older gentleman and his recently engaged son. They were talking about the mechanics of skiing as a married couple, when the father wisely counseled, "When you're married, you can't just tell her to meet you at the lodge at 4:30. That'll get you in trouble. That's also why the happiest day of my life was when your mother decided she didn't want to ski anymore."
So, I tip my glass for another Ward Ski Night and bid it farewell till next year. I can't wait for the Ward Etiquette Ski Linger Longer Auction.


Land of Curmudgeons

My grandpa is in Rehab. No, not that kind of rehab. A few weeks ago, he got sick and went into the hospital where they discovered an infection in his left artificial knee. (How does a fake knee get infected?) They operated to clean it up, and now he's in a facility to get his leg strength back so he can get back home. Visiting him in rehab has been a real experience.

On my first visit to the curmudgeon compound, I managed to get myself lost and inadvertently toured most of the facility. I'll be honest, it seemed so wonderful that I thought I wouldn't mind living there myself. There's no shortage of people to talk to, they don't seem to care how loud your TV is, and the week is filled with activities like "Sit and Dance with Carol", "Valentine Craft Hour", and regular viewings of Lawrence Welk. Afternoon naps are encouraged. They also have tons of animals; cats, dogs, birds, and rumor has it, an adolescent kangaroo. So, basically, it's half kindergarten and half petting zoo. You can tell that everyone is comfortable with a certain level of chaos.

Adding to the fun is the fact that many residents have varying levels cognitive function and hearing loss while much of the care staff speaks some form of accented English. Hilarity often ensures, as happened today with my grandpa's roommate Earl. The caregiver brings into Grandpa's room halfway through our visit.

She says to Earl: "Dis es your hroom."
Earl: "Eh?"
Caregiver explains: "You whas en de hwrong hroom."
Earl repeats: "Whas???"
Caregiver repeats with emphasis: "You WHAS en de hwrong HROOM."

At this point, it's all I can do to not laugh. I'm not sure what caused the breakdown in communication: Earl's hearing, the sweet caregiver's accent, or that he is very concerned about proper subject-verb agreement.

I also think that there may be an ulterior motive with all the animals wandering about. Shortly after lunch in Grandpa's room, in wandered an enormous bloodhound. (I'll be honest, I love dogs, so I thought this was awesome.) He adroitly sniffed about the room, let us pet him, and proceeded locate and lick up every crumb on the floor. I'm seeing some serious savings in the custodial budget if you had enough bloodhounds.

Even though the facility is very well kept and the staff is awesome, it's hard to visit because Grandpa doesn't really fit in. Mentally, he's years ahead of his "fellow inmates." (His description.) Inmates is also a pretty apt description, because they've got that place locked down tight. I've seen important government buildings with weaker security. Doors with electronic keypads are scattered about the place, both to keep the old people safely inside and to keep the surly old people away from the well behaved ones. It wouldn't surprise me too much if they had riot gear in case "Sit and Dance" gets out of control.

Adding to the prison feel is the fact that Grandpa has only been there a few days and doesn't have much in the way of room decoration. I joked that I should get him a wall poster, like Andy Dufrense did in Shawshank Redemption. Grandpa has always had a wry sense of humor and appreciated the irony. Of course, maybe that explains why Shawshank is Grandpa's favorite movie; just like Andy, he's been wrongly imprisioned, not for a crime, but by an aging body.

I wonder if grandma would be upset if I got grandpa a poster of Rita Heyworth?