Masking the Smile

Much of my time spent at Avie’s Ski / Sports is in the “back shop.” That’s the area that smells of hot ski wax and burning “ptex.” Ptex is the plastic used to repair the base of snowboards and skis. I half-jokingly tell Ted that my time in the back shop is cheaper, and more effective, than therapy. It’s a diversion from my day-to-day job duties. A time to work with my hands. And after 10 minutes of effort I get to see a rejuvenated snowboard or pair of skis—shiny, sharp, rust-free edges and a satiny, sleek glistening base.

But I love to be on the sales floor as well. An experience the other day reminded me why.

A young lady walked into the shop and I greeted her and asked how I could help. She was looking for a ski set up, boots to poles. We did the graceful dance of question-and-answer so I could find out how she skis now and wants to ski in the future. What she likes and doesn’t like.

After 45 minutes or so of boot-fitting, matching skis to boots, and selecting poles that pleasantly added to the ensemble, we were done. I was writing up the sales ticket, Ray was adjusting bindings, her companion was scratching Bixbie’s belly.

Learning to Read

Today, amid the pandemic and the wearing of masks, it is sometimes difficult to read expressions. We tell a lot by facial expressions, and with half the face sheltered behind a covering, some of the information we would readily “read” to tell how our interaction is going, is lost.

Normally, in showing someone a pair of skis they might like you get instant feedback. A frown, a quizzical downturn or scrunching of the mouth let you know, immediately, without words, if you are on track or off. Pull the mask on and the shutters close and the feedback is gone.

There are other cues, and clues. A sparkle in the eye. A lifting of an eyebrow, or maybe a squint. A downward look that says “I’m not sure I like these” or a direct look that says “I think this might be the one.”

All these clues and cues, and more, I read in the face and little bodily inflections of the young lady I had the pleasure of helping find a ski package. I knew that under that mask, when we had the ensemble assembled, there was a smile. I couldn’t see it, but it was there. A big one. No doubt in my mind. I could see it in her eyes.

And while perhaps she didn’t realize it, there was a smile on the backside of my mask. A big one.

Hidden but not gone

A big part of the fun of working at Avie’s Ski / Sports is the joy and happiness that comes from helping people get together the “hard goods” they need to get outside and enjoy life and living. When I see that smile when a boot fits just perfect, when the ski is “the one,” I get to smile and feel pretty darn good about helping have a hand in crafting that smile.

The masks might be on, but know that underneath them are smiles. Usually big ones. Not only for the people shopping at Avie’s Ski / Sports, but for those of us having the supreme pleasure of helping create those smiles.

Spencer, one of Avie’s staff, is always smiling. That’s his mask on display here. It’s one of the best pandemic masks I have seen. Sure, it’s a clown-smile, but it fits because in spirit Spencer is a big, goofy clown. And behind that smiling clown mask, like all the Avie’s Ski / Sports staff, you can bet there is a real one. A big one. One that you helped create. You can see it in the eyes.

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