The Ski Trip
Ten years ago one of our friends and co-workers, Dennis, divorced his wife of six years. He couldn’t cope with the single life and became depressed within six months of being alone. In January, Dennis asked Ron and me, both divorced, to join him at the Café Deluxe in Tysons Corner, Virginia, on Friday night to tell him how to meet women.
     “I’ll be there, bring your laptop,” I said.
     Ron and I were not playboys, just two men in their early forties who ended their marriages and enjoyed the company of women. They appeared to reciprocate, both of us having all our dark hair, and without a middle-aged paunch. Ron thin and tall at over six feet looked thirty-five years old or less. Being three inches shorter, with an athletic body and an outgoing personality, I had no problems meeting women, who guessed my age, within a year or two.

Arriving early we took a small table next to the window looking at the stalled rush hour traffic on International Drive. The waitress took our beer orders, and we declined the food menus.
     “Thanks for coming. As I mentioned earlier, I’m interested in meeting women. I’d like to use your knowledge, so I don’t have to repeat the mistakes you may have made,” Dennis said.
     “Dennis, you expect us to give you our hard earned techniques, sometimes learned though painful experiences, for free,” Ron asked, “and after we train you, you’ll steal our women.”
     “No, I’m paying for the first three rounds. Anymore and I can’t drive.”
     “Jerry, that’s a fair price for our years of wisdom.”
     “Agreed, I’ll start. Where did Willy Sutton go?” I asked.
     “Sutton was a bank robber, I didn’t know he was single and went looking for women,” Dennis replied.
     “He earned his living robbing banks. When asked why ‘he went to banks’, he replied, ‘That’s where the money is.’ Dennis, you have to go where the single women are,” I answered.
     “Single women are everywhere in Washington, DC. Join a club. I belong to rock climbing, tennis and ski clubs full of athletic, attractive, professional women,” Ron said.
     “I’m not as athletic and outgoing as you. Sking is my only sport,” Dennis said.
     “Perfect! Jerry and I are going skiing next weekend at Sugarbush in Vermont,” Ron replied, “Join us.”
     “I’m not that good a skier.”
     “You’re going to meet women, not to go skiing. The trip will also improve your skiing. I’ll give you a lesson. I used to be a ski instructor at Snowbird, Utah,” Ron replied.
     “Take your laptop out of your briefcase and you can sign up now,” I said.
     “If you’re as lonely as you said, yes now. You asked for our advice and if you don’t follow it there’s no incentive for us to give anymore.”
     “Don’t forget the beer. This process could take months,” Ron said.
     Dennis reluctantly put his computer on the table. Ron handed him a business card, Vermont Ski Trips, with a phone number and website address. “How much does this cost?” he asked.
     “If we can afford it, you can too,” Ron said.
     Dennis hesitated, but threated by our stern looks, filled out the trip application.
     “The ski trip is a onetime event. Let me show you how to access most of the single women in the Washington, DC area. Type in in your browser and we’ll teach you the wonders of sexual social networking.”
     After explaining the operations of dating sites to Dennis, and showing him how to find women to meet his expectations we drank one more beer and left. We vowed to have a great time and match Dennis with the woman of his dreams.

We arrived at the bus station at six in the evening for our twelve hour drive to Vermont. I had great expectations on Friday, hoping we could sit next to three available attractive women and show Dennis how easy it is to meet women in DC. Unfortunately, the women sat together in the front of the bus and by the time we boarded, the remaining seats were in the back. Several of the passengers had guitars and played and sang different songs as we pulled out of the city. We asked to be placed on the quiet, rather than the party bus, so we could sleep and be ready to ski when we arrived. Both busses permitted alcohol. The more the skiers drank, the louder the singing became as each guitar player tried to outdo the other. I ate my sandwich and drank my last beer at seven and tried to read.
     After three hours, Dennis who sat next to me on the aisle said, “Are these ski crowds always this rowdy.”
     “Yes, they’re letting out their pent up frustration from work.”
     “Some of them are drunk. I hope I never lose control like they have. Is this a normal part of the single life?”
     “For many people, but not for Ron and me.”
     “How are we going to get any sleep?”
     “At ten, the bus driver will announce quiet please.”
     After our conversation, I leaned against the window and covered myself with a blanket and tried to continue reading. Sleep came in less than a minute.
     A loud nasal noise woke me up around eleven. One person in the seat behind and one in the seat in front snored in bellicose terms, the noise rising and falling out of sequence with each other. Gazing at Dennis I noticed he wasn’t sleeping. He had a disturbed look on his face and I wondered if he regretted agreeing to ski with us. “Dennis, are you okay?”
     “No I can’t sleep with this noise.”
     Reaching into my backpack, I and took out two small packages and handed Dennis one. “Put these earplugs in. Not all busses are noisy, but some are. I’ve come prepared.”
     Ron slept though out our brief conversation.
     Dennis closed his eyes and exhaustion overcame him as he relaxed and breathed in a slow quiet melodic rhythm. Well if he met a woman, she wouldn’t kick him out of her bed because he snored.
     The next disturbance occurred toward morning when the bus diver slammed on the brakes. Without seatbelts we flew forward hitting the back of the chair in front of us. I heard a screaming uproar from those woken up from a sound sleep, trying to get their bearings. I felt blood collecting on my forehead from a small abrasion. Dennis and Ron escaped injury. Other voices yelled, “I’m bleeding.”
     After stopping the bus the driver, turned on the lights, and asked, “Is anyone injured?”
     The only responses concerned bleeding. The driver walked down the aisle with a first-aid kit dispensing bandages to those who needed them.
     “I’m sorry for the abrupt stop, but a car cut us off and I had to apply the brakes or we would have hit it. The driver must have been drunk. After we stopped he kept swerving and hit a tree. He’s okay. He got out of his car and is looking at the crumpled fender and hood, bent around the tree,” the bus driver said.
     One passenger asked, “How long is it to Sugarbush?”
     “Less than an hour.”
     Ron had no problem going to sleep, but Dennis told me after we arrived he stayed awake. I fell asleep after ten minutes, but woke up tired when the bus driver turned on the internal lights and announced, “We’ve arrived at Sugarbush.” The passengers cheered. The bus ride exhausted two of the three of us
     We left the bus and our trip leader handed us the weekends ski, breakfast and dinner meal tickets. He gave us instructions on getting our luggage and directed us to the hotel desk. A sign at the desk announced, “Sign in here and check your luggage. Rooms can be entered after 4:00 p.m.. Return to pick up your keys. If you are skiing today do not check in you skiing equipment.” Fortunately, the hotel had three clerks on duty, who processed us within fifteen minutes.
     Our exhaustion fled turning us ravenous at 7:30 with the smell of breakfast coffee, bacon and eggs, wafting from the buffet tables in the Timbers Restaurant. Since the ski slopes did not open till 9:00 we ate a sumptuous breakfast. We loaded the plates like teenage athletes with scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, home fries, waffles and fruit. While we stuffed ourselves, none of us could finish everything on our plates.
     Dennis started our breakfast conversation asking, “Is the bus ride always that bad?” in a tone of voice implying he wasn’t happy.
     Ron answered, “No, every other bus trip I’ve been on is uneventful. This is my eighteenth.”
     “I’ve never had any problems before tonight,” I said.

We walked to the Lincoln Peak section of Sugarbush and went to the beginner’s slopes to warm up. The temperature hovered in the high teens, and the sky clear, with a bright sun illuminated the morning slopes - a perfect ski day.
     “Ron, remember you said you’d give me a lesson,” Dennis said.
     “Get on the lift with Jerry and I’ll meet you there.”
     At the top of the Easy Rider chair lift Ron said, “I’ll ski several hundred yards down and stop, and motion you to ski toward me and I’ll look at your form.”
     When Ron waved his arm, I said, “Go ahead Dennis.”
     “Why don’t you go first?”
     “I’m a good skier. If you fall I don’t want to climb up the mountain to help you,” I said to Dennis, whose hesitancy and heaving breathing showed his fear. “Go ahead and don’t worry about falling. If you don’t fall you’re not pushing your limits on the mountain.”
     Shamed, Dennis pointed his skis toward Ron, pushed off with his poles and headed toward him, making perfect turns and skiing under control. I followed twenty yards behind him. At the bottom, Ron yelled, “Dennis, you don’t need a lesson, you need confidence. You should have no problem skiing with us or any women you meet. I don’t want to hear you complaining again. If you're half as good as meeting women as you are skiing, you should go home happy.”
     I watch Dennis beam as Ron talked. I knew he wasn’t that good a skier, but as a seasoned instructor Ron knows the importance of confidence in skiing and meeting women. Dennis and I skied the intermediate slopes on Gadd Peak that morning while Ron spent his time on the expert slopes on Castlerock Peak.
     We met for lunch at the Castlerock Pub. Famished from skiing, Ron ordered the Vermont Bacon Blue Burger, Dennis settled on the Turkey Ruben, while I dined on the exotic Spicy Tuna Tostada. We sat at a table next to the window to watch the skiers. Several of the women on the bus joined us. They talked about their morning and how great a time they were having. Since they were in their early twenties, it became obvious they were not romantically interested in us, especially when Mary a twenty-one-year old recent college graduate asked, “Have you met any women your age?” Dennis looked crestfallen as he heard their words.
     Ron said, “I skied with several women this morning. Dennis didn’t you?”
     Dennis shook his head no.
     “You probably rode the lift with Jerry. You’ll meet no one that way. Go on the single lane and maneuver yourself until you’re paired with a woman. That’s what we do with men. Unfortunately the ski clothes hide our age. I met men in their fifties hitting on me when I started taking. They may have thought I was over thirty.” Mary said.
     “We’ll try your approach after lunch,” I said, glancing at Dennis, whose face showed fear. I felt stupid, a successful single man being told by a twenty-one-year old girl how to meet women.
     After lunch Ron and I headed to the expert slopes while Dennis stayed on the intermediate slope.
     “Remember what Mary told you. Get in the singles line and sit next to a woman and start talking. If she’s from our area suggest you ski together. After the run, if you both like each other keep skiing together. Ask her to dinner. Don’t worry about us,” I said.
     Dennis looked lost as he went to the single line of the Valley House lift. We did not see him until we met for après-ski drinks at the Timbers Restaurant. He came in last with a big smile, walked to our table and said, “I’m having fun.”
     We ordered beers and split two Baskets of Fries.
     “Did you meet anyone?” I asked.
     “Many. Most were from Boston or New York, I even skied with three. I skied better than two of them. Now, I’m back in the single life. I met one from Philadelphia, but that’s too far from Falls Church.”
     “Dennis, Philadelphia is in range, especially since you’d have to stay over and not drive home,” I said. “My wife lived in Albany, NY and the commuting helped the relationship.”
     “How did that work out?” Dennis asked.
     “We’re divorced.”
     “So it failed.”
     “No. Our marriage lasted ten years.”
     “I want to meet someone to marry and stay together forever. I don’t want to get divorced again.”
     “Good luck. Then don’t get married, just live happily in sin. Over seventy percent of second marriages don’t last,” I replied.
     “Did you meet a woman who lives near us?” Ron asked.
     “Yes. A woman from Baltimore. We had a great conversation.”
     “Did you ski with her?” I asked.
     “No, I found out she was too young for me, when she told me she was on the US Olympic ski team, I didn’t think I’d impress her.”
     “Good move. You have to recognize when to cut your losses and move on,” I said.
     “I’m glad you having a good time,” Ron said.
     “So far, even including the bus ride, it’s the best weekend I’ve had since the divorce.”
     Buoyed by Dennis reaction we stayed for dinner at the Timbers. We took a nap before going out dancing and trolling for women at nine o’clock.
     A shuttle took us to the Slide Brook Tavern, where a DJ played old songs from the seventies and eighties, popular when we attended high school and college. We didn’t see Mary or her friends there. When we walked in Dennis looked around and saw middle-aged women who had not lost their figures, drinking beer and sipping wine. He asked, “You have to show me how to meet those beautiful women at the bar.”
     “No problem. It’s easy. I have it down to a science. Just don’t fear rejection.”
     “Unfortunately, with women, I do,” Dennis said.
     “Jerry’s system will cure you,” Ron said hungrily, scanning the bar.
     “Look at the women lined up at the bar,” I said. “I‘m going to start at the right and ask the first woman to dance, and if she says no, I’ll ask the next one on her left, and if she declines, I’ll keep asking them to dance until at least one of them accepts.”
     “What if no one wants to dance?”
     “They do. They’re single and their standing at the bar. The women in relationships are sitting at tables with their partners.”
     Dennis looked around the room, “You’re right.”
     The first woman, I asked, smiled and said, “Led the way.”
     We danced to two songs: Billie Jean and Celebration, talking whenever the music wasn’t too loud. She introduced herself as Alice, and told me she taught high school in Baltimore, Maryland. She wore her black hair in a ponytail, had a slim figure, hidden by a blue ski sweater, and stood a few inches shorter than me. A perfect woman for me. Her gyrations showed she had more energy than I did. At the end of the second dance, I didn’t admit fatigue, but I guess she heard my heaving breathing and realized she wasn’t the cause and said, “Let’s sit the next one out and talk.”
     “Led the way,” I replied.
     She laughed as we left the dance floor. Standing a few feet from the bar and Dennis, she asked, “Can I get you a beer?”
     Ron, who had been talking to Dennis, told me the next morning, “When she offered to buy the first round, Dennis could not believe it and mumbled ‘Christ’ under his breath.”
     After Alice handed me a Heineken, I introduced her to Dennis and Ron. She introduced us to three of her teaching friends: Nancy, Theresa and Peggy. The seven of us drank and danced, exchanging partners until eleven, when Alice said, “Let’s go to our town house for dessert.” The women cracked up, while Ron and I smiled, but Dennis looked perplexed. “We have ice cream,” she added, to clarify any miscommunications.
     “I love ice cream,” Dennis said, which caused the four women, Ron and I to laugh. Dennis looked like he could not understand why we were laughing and said, “We don’t have a car. We took the shuttle here.”
     “We can drive you in our van,” Alice said.
     The town house had three floors, with a bedroom in the basement, living or great room and kitchen on the first floor and two bedrooms on the second floor. The furniture had a New England country look. We first entered and stood in the living room, wondering about the seating arrangements, when Alice asked, “Who wants ice cream?” The other three women declined. The three men accepted.
     “Sit down. I’ll bring it. Jerry take the love seat, I’ll join you later.”
     Ron and Nancy sat close together in two chairs separated by a lamp table, while Jerry and Theresa and Peggy, reclined on the sofa. Peggy insisted Jerry sit between them. Ron beamed as he whispered to Nancy, a tall blue-eyed blond, who after taking off her sweater revealed a perfect Nordic body, slim with appropriately placed curves.
     Dennis smiled like a child being given a large box of chocolates, sitting between the two women. Theresa, a dark-skinned Italian, about Dennis’s height showed her voluptuous figure without her ski sweater. Peggy a red-haired thin Irish women a few inches shorter than Dennis, caressed his hair as she talked.
     Alice brought four dishes of vanilla and chocolate into the living room on a bright wooden oak tray. She gave herself the smallest serving. After we finished the ice cream, Nancy took the empty dishes back to the kitchen and announced, “I’m going to give Ron a tour of the townhouse.” They went upstairs, but never came back.
Alice and I started kissing and fondling each other. Occasionally, I opened my eyes and saw Theresa and Peggy rubbing Dennis’ back and arms and each exchanging kisses with him. Lucky man, he scores twice on his first try. “Let’s go upstairs,” Alice whispered.
     Alice’s alarm woke me up at 7:30. She brushed my hair with her hands and said, “Time to get up. We want to make the first chairlift. There’s a spare toothbrush in the bathroom.”
     “Thanks. I enjoyed last night,” I said groggily walking to the bathroom.
     When I returned she kissed me platonically and handed me a piece of paper with her address and phone number, “Call me.” I handed her my business card.
     Alice put her finger to her lips and whispered, “Quiet, the others may still be asleep,” as she led me downstairs. Ron and Nancy sipped coffee in the kitchen, but the others had not left the basement.
     Ron stood up and said, “We’ll see you on the slopes.”
     We went outside, “I’m famished. Let’s go to Timbers for breakfast,” Ron said.
     “I’ll join you. What do you think of Dennis’ luck?”
     “He’ll want to move here.”
     The restaurant teamed with noisy skiers eager for the first chair lift to start. We spotted Mary and a few of her friends and joined them after we filled our breakfast tray with less food than for yesterday’s breakfast.
     Mary greeted us, “Hi guys, I hear you had a great time last night.”
     “Who told you that?”
     “Dennis.” We left the condo building at the same time.
     “Dennis!” We both said.
     “Yes, he was on his way to church.”
     “Are you both deaf, asking me to repeat my words to make sure you heard them,” Mary said.
     “No,” I replied, “We thought he hadn’t left the townhouse.”
     Rather than wait for Dennis, Ron and I went skiing on the expert slopes and met the women for lunch at the Castlerock Pub. They left Sugarbush for the long drive home after eating, but not before Ron and I had independently made arrangements to see them again.
     Later in the afternoon, Dennis reappeared at the top of the Castlerock Peak in the warming hut. “Hi guys,” he said as he sat at our table.
     “What are you doing here? This mountain only has expert runs,” Ron said.
     “I know, I’m going to try one.”
     “What happened last night?” I asked.
     “It was interesting, but real men don’t kiss and tell.”
     We skied together the rest of the afternoon, but hard as we tired, Dennis remained quiet. The bus ride home differed from the ride up, since the weekend had exhausted everyone. The singing, noise, and drinking on the ride to Sugarbush, did not occur on the return trip.

Next Saturday, Alice and I went to the Aquarium in Baltimore and had dinner in Little Italy. I waited until she started sipping her second glass of wine, before asking, “When did Dennis leave your condo last Saturday?”
     “He didn’t tell you?”
     “He left ten minutes after we went upstairs. Dennis told Theresa and Peggy they were nice and sexy, but that as a practicing Catholic he couldn’t have sex with them.”
     “Yes. I know you and Ron would have stayed if you sat in the middle of the couch.”
     “No comment. What did the girls say?”
     “They wondered if he was gay. They were pissed, saying they had wasted the evening on Dennis, even though he’s handsome. They were looking for action, as well as looks.”

     After we returned to work, Ron, and I never asked Dennis about his evening in the townhouse condo. Two months later Dennis visited his parents in Naples, Florida. He returned beaming and walked into my office and showed me a picture of a beautiful well-tanned curvaceous Italian, who looked twenty-five. “My mother introduced me to her. She’s the daughter of someone they play tennis with,” Dennis said.
     “Isn’t she a little young?”
     “No, she looks young. She’s thirty-five, four years younger than me.”
     “Very attractive,” I said wondering why she had an interest in Dennis. He doesn’t practice pre-marital sex.
     “Maria had her marriage annulled, just like I did. She’s a practicing Catholic. I need a faithful god-fearing women, not the type I met in Sugarbush.”
     The annulment was news to me. “Sounds serious,” I said, looking at his self-satisfied grin.
     “It is. We’re getting married next month. She gave notice at work and the marriage bans are being announced this week in her church in Naples. We’ll get married a month from Saturday.”
     “That was fast.”
     “Jerry, when you meet your true love you know. There’s no sense waiting.”

He returned six weeks later from his honeymoon in the British Virgin Islands and introduced his new wife to Ron and I. She seemed nice and a perfect fit for Dennis. We saw little of him after his marriage, especially since Ron and I spent our non-working hours with Alice and Nancy. A year after our ski trip, Ron walked into my office and proclaimed, “I’m joining Dennis.”
     “What do you mean?”
     “I’m marrying Nancy.”
     “Congratulations,” I said, wondering how this would affect my relationship with Alice.
     “I’d like you to be my best man.”
     “Thanks, I look forward to the wedding. Is it going to be a big church affair?”
     “No, we both had that once. We’ll get married by a judge in June after she finishes teaching and save money for a honeymoon trip to Rome. She’ll move here and get a teaching job in Virginia.”
     The winter went fast Ron, Nancy, Alice, and I went skiing at Sugarbush three times that winter. Alice assured me many times, “Don’t worry, I’ve been married once, I’ll never getting married again. I want to be happy.” The more we saw each other, the less I agreed with her aversion to marriage.
     Ron and Nancy’s marriage occurred without incident. They held a small reception in Ron’s house. Alice reminded me of her devotion to being single. Dennis attended the wedding without Maria, explaining she had to return to Florida to be with her dying father.
     In August Ron, sporting a wedding band, walked into my office grinning so much I feared he’d mash his teeth. “Guess what?”
     “I’m not good at guessing. What happened?”
     “Maria skipped our wedding, not because of her father, but because she and Dennis had split.”
     “What the perfect whirl-wind romance has ended.”
     “Yes, do you know why they broke up?”
     I shook my head no.
     “She used to beat him,” Ron said.
     “Really! Why didn’t he hit her back to stop it?”
     “He did once, and he said she threatened to go to the police if he attacked her again.”
     “Poor Dennis. No courage with women.”
     “He had smarts as well as courage. When she attacked him again, he went to the emergency room to get stitches on his left arm. When the doctor asked him what happened, he told the truth, she had stabbed him with a steak knife. The doctor had to call the police who arrested her. A judge issued a court order stating she had to leave the house and never approach Dennis again or risk going to jail. Horrified, she fled back to her parents in Florida. Dennis has filed for a divorce.”
     “What a story. How did you find out?”
     “He told me, but made me swear to keep it to myself. Please don’t tell anyone else.”
     “I won’t. Two bad for Dennis, now with Alice and Nancy, neither of us can help him meet someone else.”

Three weeks later, Dennis asked me to join him for a beer after work. He repeated what Ron told me as we sipped our beer. He ended his comments with, “I’ve learned my lesson. Ask your friends and never your mother to fix you up. I’ll never again let the church constrict my behavior with women. I should have stayed with Theresa and Peggy that night. My life over the last year would have been happier and less expensive.”
     “They’re still available. Do you want their phone numbers?”
     “Yes, why do you think I’m buying you a beer?”
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