The Far Away and Beyond

Grand Canyon National Park

A gentleman. Maybe even a scholar. Well into his sixties, I’d guess. Gray haired. A thin man, with an air of class. High cheekbones, straight posture; clothing crisp and perfect. Most would call him sophisticated. He was a member of the wait staff at the nicest hotel in a national park that we were visiting. He had been there for many years, and the regular visitors knew him by name. The man sought to please, was very efficient in his movements, and knew his job. No energy wasted. He even seemed choreographed. Poised, that’s what I would call it. Not pompous or contrite. He appeared as if he would be picked up in a casting call to play this very part on a movie set for a high-society restaurant in DC or New York City. Hollywood’s version.

What brings a man of obvious professional standards to the far away? A man that would be just as comfortable chatting up VIPs and assisting patrons of a high-class restaurant in New York City.

Death Valley National Park

It was an overly white crowd that night. Not just white people. White hair, too. A lot of white hair, most of mine included. Seemed a bit surprising to me. People from all over the world visit these national treasures—one million or more each year from the reports I’d read in this particular national park. The restaurant was filled to capacity with diners all in their finery. A dress code, don’t you know. A usual night at the height of the season, no doubt. A place much like many others in the US, only with different scenery.

Yosemite National Park

The wine selection was slim and poor. Not cheap, but tasted so. The food was so so, as well. But the staff was great, the views were fantastic, and we were dozens upon dozens of miles away from the smallest anywhere that might be considered metropolitan. We were a captive audience, one willing to pay extra to be this far away, to see the sights, to explore nature, and to check another place off the ol’ bucket list.

Death Valley National Park

Advice for Our Grandchildren

The paths that people take in life always interest me. I sometimes imagine that certain people are under witness protection or something just as exotic. Probably not. They wouldn’t be working in the public setting—maybe the back office or maintenance. Not in the restaurant. But these individuals got there somehow. They came from somewhere. I think back on my own path; I wish I had worked such jobs, in these amazing places, not exactly as the waiter described above has done, but for a period of time during my youth. I can only imagine how I would have grown personally working in the public eye, with people from all over and beyond.

Death Valley National Park

An acquaintance of mine for whom I have much respect is gregarious and charming. Nothing flusters him. He brightens the room when he enters. I asked him about this ability once. How did he develop that talent? Or was it natural? He told me of his younger years when he was a bartender in a foreign country at a huge resort bar. He said, “At times, there were people lined up six deep, all yelling for drinks and demanding this or that.” Some that “had to be dealt with,” he indicated. “You get real thick skinned and far more confident in such environments,” he told me. He had taken this path specifically for that purpose. I envy that a bit. It took me too long and involved some great teachers to help me to understand how I could grow quickly. I just needed to know where I wanted to go, and then I had to find the fire for my trial. Sometimes you sink, sometimes you swim.

Grand Canyon National Park

I often share this lesson with young people. I also tell them to look for a resort or national park, some place they would like to visit, and work there during the summers between college years. Also, I advise them to take off that “gap year” and travel the world. Take to the backpacker’s circuit. Life is much easier once you challenge yourself.

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Still, I wonder what brought that sophisticated waiter to the far away and beyond. Our own waitress was from Tennessee. A very sweet and professional person herself. Much younger than the waiter. But if she stays working there at the national park and follows the model of that sophisticated man, she is certain to succeed.

2 comments on “The Far Away and Beyond”

  1. LaDonn says:

    I appreciate your depth of the area as well as looking deeper into humanity. Refreshing

Leave a Reply