By Charles Moncrief
As 2012 opens with its vast opportunities to battle the potential and actual injustices of family relationships, I wanted to start out by sharing what in my opinion was a perfect example of abuse with which to end our most immediate trip around the sun. This story is as told to me by “Dr. Tom”, a co-worker at my weekday job. I'm telling this with Dr. Tom’s permission.
After job-hunting for more than two years, Tom joined our Internet Catalog Sales team about six months ago. He wasn’t a doctor then, but that changed soon after he started; following a fourteen-year delay, a prestigious New England school conferred his degree. The Department of Defense couldn’t understand what they were reading in his dissertation on particle physics, so they classified it Top Secret and blocked its publication. No PhD until either the DoD figured out what Tom wrote, or until their experts decided to declassify his material, whichever came first. After nearly a decade and a half, they declassified Tom’s topic. So now, since he calls me “Father Charles”, it’s only fitting that I should call him “Doctor Tom”.
And since the particles of interest to Dr. Tom are in outer space, I can truly say that now I work with a rocket scientist.
While this introduction alone could be a good story of abuse in itself, it’s not my topic here. Rather, the topic is Dr. Tom’s long weekend ski trip to Winter Park with his girlfriend Crys. Since Crys’ birthday was on New Year’s Eve, the two of them looked forward to a wonderful holiday vacation trip. As is often the case, the dream vacation had a rude awakening.
Plans started on an upbeat note when a friend who lives in Colorado called Dr. Tom and said that he and his wife were going to ring in the New Year in Paris. Would Dr. Tom and Crys be willing to house-sit for their friends in Winter Park, in exchange for free lodging near the ski slopes? Before consenting to the deal, Dr. Tom asked if Crys’ brother and sister-in-law could join them. The owner was willing, so the happy couple started making plans for a fun time at the slopes and a birthday (and New Year’s Eve) celebration at the top of the mountain.
Around mid-December Dr. Tom told us about the first glitch. Crys’ family couldn’t join them, but her co-worker just happened to be hanging loose and would be happy to join them. In return for the free lodging, Jean’s husband Brad would drive them up to Winter Park in his van. It’s an aggressive drive from Dallas to Winter Park, but achievable with an early enough morning departure and limited stops. So Brad and Jean were to pick them up in the dark of the morning.
On Thursday Brad and Jean pulled into Dr. Tom’s driveway at the expected time, but with an unexpected passenger manifest. Their two teenage boys were aboard, so would Dr. Tom and Crys mind having two more people share the living quarters? After all, the house sleeps eight. So the van took to the highway with six people aboard.
About two-thirds of the way to the ski area, Brad stopped to gas up his van. He gave Dr. Tom one of those looks (you know the look) that indicated he wasn’t expecting to pay for the gas. Well, fair is fair. After all, Brad was putting more than two thousand miles on the van, so why shouldn’t Dr. Tom kick in something to fill up the thing? Dr. Tom paid for the gas. And for food at the gas station’s convenience store while they were there.
Now I'm a little fuzzy on the details here, but somehow from out of nowhere two more members of Jean’s family showed up to join this group. Of course, since the house sleeps eight, this was workable. Who would let a mild irritation get in the way of a dream vacation?
When they arrived in Winter Park, the eight of them were tired. But not too tired for Brad, Jean, and the boys to stake out their claim to all the bedrooms. No problem, since Dr. Tom has slept on couches in living rooms many times in his life. Crys, however, didn’t like couches, so she put some blankets and sheets on the living room floor.
But sleep was not to come just yet. Brad, Jean, the boys, and the other family members were hungry. So as they rang up their groceries at the nearby store, Brad conveniently had left his credit card at the house. Of course, Dr. Tom was the gentleman! As a result, plenty of food was had by all.
Back at the house, two more people showed up. One of Jean’s cousins had flown in from Toronto and brought her teenage daughter. With judicious rearrangement of the quarters, the eight guests had their accommodations while Dr. Tom and Crys remained on the living room couch and floor.
The next morning, rested from the long drive (well, some of them were) and full of breakfast, they all went to the ski area. Tom rented his and Crys’ equipment, and proceeded to start a day of skiing. But wait! There’s more! Wasn’t Dr. Tom going to pay the rental for the other eight folks? Oh, an oversight which Dr. Tom’s credit card quickly corrected. Then came the lift tickets. $90 for the teens’ day passes, plus lift tickets for the adults in Brad’s and Jean’s family. But there’s still more, as Brad and Jean wanted season passes because they were planning to go back later in the winter for more skiing.
With everyone fed, equipped, and lifted, the day progressed. Dr. Tom and Crys shook off their guests’ arrogance and attacked the slopes with a vengeance until early afternoon when they broke for lunch. Strangely, all ten of them were ready for food at the same time, so Dr. Tom lived up to all their expectations. As they were walking outside to put their skis on, they noticed that the teenagers were no longer wearing ski boots. The kids said that they were through skiing for the day, after using their lift tickets only once. (At this point I'm amazed that there was no call to the ski patrol, to perform first aid on those teens! Or on their parents for allowing this abuse.) But Dr. Tom and Crys cooled down as they enjoyed the afternoon of skiing on Winter Park’s better slopes.
The evening was no better. Food and drinks for everyone in the house, even though the number had increased to eleven! When Dr. Tom saw the eleventh person, he asked “Who are you?” Number Eleven identified himself as the boyfriend of that Canadian woman who had joined the party with her daughter. Some more rearranging, and everyone had a place to sleep. (Dr. Tom and Crys, of course, were still on and beside the couch in the living room.)
Being a morning person, Dr. Tom was ready for vengeance. At sunrise the next morning he roused Brad out of bed and said he and Crys wanted a ride to the slopes. It was New Year’s Eve and it was Crys’ birthday, so they wanted to get as much skiing in as possible before coming back to the house and cleaning up for the party on the mountaintop. And since Brad’s truck was the only source of transportation, it was time for him to get up and do some driving! It didn’t work. Dr. Tom and Crys had to take a shuttle or a taxi to the slopes, and Brad’s bunch would meet them there later.
At noon, when Dr. Tom and Crys were at the top of the mountain, they received a call from Brad. It was time to come down to meet them at the lodge, because the kids needed lift tickets. And besides, it was lunchtime and they were hungry. Dr. Tom suggested that there are other ways for a person to get to the top of the mountain, and he suggested the alternative of hiking with the skis strapped to their backs. Of course, Brad and Jean had their season passes, so they were quite content to pass the advice along to the others in the party.
By the end of the day, Dr. Tom and Crys were too exhausted to party. As they were contemplating a quieter way to celebrate, including the alternative of renting a room somewhere else, Crys was almost asleep when Brad showed up and asked if they had $500. FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS! What in the world for? Brad and Jean had made nine reservations for the mountaintop, and they needed $55 apiece to pay for the tickets. Crys said to Dr. Tom, “Go to the nearest ATM, get the cash, and give it to them!” Not quite understanding why his girlfriend would say such a thing, Dr. Tom obeyed orders. It soon became obvious, even to a rocket scientist, why Crys had given the order. That evening the two of them were alone in the house. Crys said, “If it had been a THOUSAND dollars, I would have sent you to get it! All I wanted was to get them out of the house!” (We’ll leave the rest of the evening, with the clean sheets and blankets, to your imagination.)
New Year’s Day, Sunday, was another surprise. The Canadian woman asked if Dr. Tom would donate a few hundred to her church in Toronto. In cash, of course. When Dr. Tom refused, she took her daughter and returned to Canada. Her boyfriend mentioned that she didn’t feel appreciated, so she left. It seemed that things were starting to come unglued, so she didn’t want to be in a hostile environment. Besides, the rest of them would be leaving later in the day.
On the trip back Brad looked at his gas gauge and decided to fill up. Dr. Tom also looked at the gas gauge, it was two-thirds full. But Dr. Tom fulfilled his obligation to those people by paying for the final fill-up. And on Tuesday, when Dr. Tom came back to work, we were treated to one of the most amazing stories about how cheeky some people can get.
I hope you enjoyed this story. I wrote it from memory, and I've attempted to be accurate in describing this experience as it was shared. Both Crys and Dr. Tom are resilient, and they’re already finding humor in the events. In fact, they’ve consulted their Thesaurus for synonyms to the word “moocher” and are getting a lot of pleasure reflecting on the subtle differences that the Thesaurus provides.
Not everyone is as resilient as Dr. Tom and Crys. I'm not. And it would have taken me several months to find humor in all that went on. But maybe, as we get all full of stiffness during the year when we don’t like the abusive treatment that others dish out, maybe we can have a resource here. Maybe we can read a few of the atrocities that Dr. Tom and Crys went through. We can sigh and tell ourselves that the world has all kinds of people in it, and we can also determine that we won’t let such people ruin the gifts that we get every day.
Grace and Peace,
Anglican Priest, Charles Moncrief, serves up the issues of the day on a platter mixed with scripture, seriousness, and a sense of humor to create a ministry founded in love for his fellow man.
“I’m an Anglican Priest, disguised as a geek during the week. It’s REALLY tough to change my costume, since phone booths are getting hard to find!”