"Hey mac, where'd you get that hat?"
"None of your damn business," I told him, though I didn't really mean it. I was actually just horsin' around to see what he'd do. I mean this taxi driver hadn't said anything for like five hours since he picked me up outside Bobby's, and this is the first thing he says? Some friendly guy.
"Really? Maybe I wanna buy one, too. Why not just tell me? You steal it or sumthin'?"
"Naw... OK bud, Vancouver, that's where I got it if you really wanna know."
I can't stand guys who always really wanna know something even when you tell 'em it's none of their damn business. I especially can't stand nosey taxi drivers. But maybe this guy was only nosey 'cause he was a skier.
There are only three kinds of people in Whistler, I learned that much living here. First, like I said, skiers, and they always wanna know stuff — like as if just being on skis makes you part of the Spanish Inquisition. They ask you questions all the time in lineups, on chairlifts, in the bar — while you're taking a leak for chrissakes. It's annoying and drives me crazy. Sometimes I pretend I don't even speak English so I don't have to answer. What I'll do is, I'll look at them like I just got out of a psych ward and can't understand what they're saying or why they're even talking, just shrug and stuff, you know, like the French. I know the French even shrug at each other, which doesn't make any sense, but it shuts them up good if you just shrug at a normal person who's trying to talk to you when you don't want to be talked to.
The second kind of person is snowboarders and on account of having to be cool and all they pretend they don't want to know anything even if they do. You know? Like they aren't really interested in you and have more important things to do — like listen to shitty music through headphones that make them look like a DJ who lost their turntable somewhere. I guess those things keep their ears warm, too, because half the time they aren't wearing a helmet anyway. Not even a goddam hat. Or gloves for chrissake. But still, if they don't know you, no matter how good you are — and you could be a whole lot better at going down the hill than them — they treat you like you have a giant "L" on your helmet, the kind kids learning to drive have on their cars. This makes me more crazy.
The third kind of person is what my roommate Danny calls a valley person. They don't ski or snowboard or anything and nobody really knows why they're here, though old Danny once told me it's to milk as much as they can off folks who come here to ski and snowboard which makes me have a little respect at least 'cause that's a good angle to work. Anyway, they're not too nosey because they just don't care. They really don't. I'm not kidding. So that's why I thought this taxi driver might be a skier. Because he really wanted to know and wasn't trying to be cool or anything.
Actually, I'm not complaining that he wasn't very conversational, because after a night at Bobby's — everyone calls it that instead of its real name, Bobby Asia's, I don't know why, because "Bobby's" is confusing as hell, like it's someone's house up in Alpine for chrissake — I was happy for a little quiet. Inside had been bad enough, but outside, where I got in this taxi, there was like 20,000 girls lined up to get in and every one I talked to was as dumb as a bag of goddamn hammers. Inside I was sitting with a tableful of them from Seattle, obviously here on a big vacation to the big mountains. Not that they weren't smart in school or at work, but dumb in that you couldn't get a full answer on anything you asked 'em on account of their heads were constantly swivelling around looking for pro skiers or snowboarders. A bunch of goddamn phonies, made me want to puke. This Bobby's place was full of phonies — you know, just partiers, people who like to do drugs and listen to electronic music that sounds like beer caps in a blender. But anyway, they were dumb, too — the kind of dumb you always are when you are drunk or stoned late at night and too stupid to go home. Like I was.
Actually, I was even dumber 'cause I got kicked out of ski-instructor school again and had to pack up and leave the staff residence, so I'd just been walking around going to bars... I called up this one girl I used to date, old Jane, to see if she'd run away with me to Revelstoke or something, but she wouldn't bite. So I called up this guy I knew, he was a ski instructor who instructed instructors, gave them tests and stuff, and he said to meet him at Bobby's because these Seattle girls he once taught were coming up. So there I'd sat, stupid as everyone else, trying to talk one of them into dancing, buying her Crown 'n cokes because that's all she drank, when this pro snowboarder guy comes over, and she goes off to dance with him.
I don't know why but I just stood up and punched him in the head. He didn't know I was gonna do it so I got him good. Then his friends ran over and pounded me hard, even if I held my own for a bit. I ended up with a lot of scrapes and a bloody nose. Mostly from the bouncers who threw me on the street. Luckily my favourite hat, the one I bought in Vancouver before I moved up here was still stuffed in my pocket. It was one of those porkpie hipster jobs, kinda dented now but still cool enough that the taxi guy pulled over to pick me up.
He was still driving and I was thinking about those 20,000 other dummies lined up to go in and wondered what would happen if Bobby's wasn't there. "I don't think many people would miss it," said the driver. "The cops wouldn't for sure. I might, I guess."
"Yeah? Hey — if you really like my hat it's yours. I won't need it in Revelstoke."
Leslie Anthony is a Whistler-based author, editor, biologist and bon vivant who has never met a mountain he didn't like.