In the ever-growing list of thankless jobs, there resides the title of ski resort chair lift attendant, or more simply put: a liftie. He is more thankless, perhaps, than even the city garbage man – whom at least walks away with an oftentimes livable wage. There is no glory to the liftie, despite the fact that without the backbone position few others would navigate the mountain for work or pleasure purposes. The liftie is akin to a rejected super villain solely by default. The irony in his banishment is that I have met many lifties who formerly served as brilliant arborists, health practitioners, scientists, etc etc, whom are truly inspirational souls. Nonetheless, he is still a pariah.
So as I sat in a drone at the top of the bunny slope magic carpet, not a single guest came to use it. Policy dictated that a liftie must always be present for a spinning lift, so I was stuck there. I plodded slowly against the moving floor to burn time. Then I heard it: a juvenile raven croaking to any nearby kin, perhaps in search of a mate for the coming spring or for a comrade to raid dumpsters. My head spun up and around, and I peered up the hill where the call resonated. I stood tall and called back to the raven. As I did so, I was unaware of the lone preteen boy dangling above me on the chair lift. He stared down in utter confusion.
“You gotta yell at birds.” I told him, as if this was some sort of common knowledge he was foolishly questioning. He immediately looked away.
“You do.” I muttered.
Fast forward a month, and one would find me aimlessly wandering a busy Walmart parking lot in Anchorage fully lacking even the slightest inclination of where I had parked my car. To be fair, I had borrowed the car and was not familiar with it, and to be extra fair I hadn’t paid much attention to anything when I parked.
It was a spectacle. It was a live comedic performance. People commented, and people laughed out loud at my struggle. And I don’t blame them, I laughed at myself too. I owned my shame, but I was truly tired of carrying the box of Mango LaCroix bubbly I purchased and wanted to eat my garlic Ritz.
Twenty minutes later, and I was making laps down isles I had already traveled, desperately trying to avoid anyone who had already commented on the situation. I passed a soggy sandwich some unfortunate soul must have clumsily dropped, and I thought to myself that “there’s going to be a very happy bird soon.” At that moment, a raven alighted several cars away. He arched his neck and frilled his throat, cackling in his wicked tongue.
“That’s going to be the happy bird,” I whispered. “Yo, raven!” I did my best recreation of his gurgling laughter. He perked his head and looked at me. I pointed at the sandwich, and marched towards him.
“Quowoah,” I called as I had heard ravens do to find each other in dense woods. He was taken aback by my vocalization, and I spooked him towards the sandwich. Suddenly, I realized how many eyes were watching me. I surveyed their confusion. Lacking the comfort of liftie banishment, I could not explain to each of these folks individually why that raven needed that sandwich and why I opted to yell at him, so I congratulated the bird and hastily walked to the opposite end of the parking lot.
Parked in plain sight on that far end was the dark blue Jeep Cherokee with the “friends don’t let friend eat farmed fish – ALASKA SALMON” sticker on the rear bumper. I jumped inside after triggering the alarm and laughed.
“You just gotta yell at birds,” I thought.