I like to be a mouse in the corner at the Mazama Store courtyard. First, it’s a comfortable, familiar place to be during this trying COVID time. But, then, there’s always excellent people-watching and overheard comments that pique one’s interest and imagination.
This past week, I picked up my mail, my Ruby Slippers’ veggie box, and headed for a sunspot in the courtyard to eat a fresh-made sandwich followed by a ginger snap and read the Methow Valley News, hot off the press. Ann McCreary’s front-page story about the Methow Valley becoming a “zoom town” first caught my attention and Don Nelson’s editorial “Just Asking” added to my inquisitive thinking about who are these people and what are they doing here: The tables in the courtyard were full.
You can pretty much tell the newbies and/or visitors. They don’t quite know the nuances of the Mazama Store, such as: You can buy a beer inside or get a draft beer outside; you queue up in one line on the marked spots and wait for someone at register two or three to say, “I can help you down here;” indoor potties are for employees only; don’t expect to buy a sea salt baguette in the late afternoon — they will most likely be sold out; and, yes, you can find specialized grocery items that westsiders seek at a DeLaurenti’s or a Met Market.
As each group of customers made its way to the outside counter, I paid attention to their demeanor, attitude and expectations.
“My daughter told us to be sure and get a cookie here.” Wait staff: “Absolutely! What is your choice? We have…”
“How do you get to a place to sit by the river?” Wait staff: “Let me draw you a map to a great place…”
“Oh, you have draft beer? Two of those, please. A dry cider?” Wait staff: “Let me check and show you what we have…”
Wait staff to unmasked man: “Would you mind putting your mask on?” Compliance.
Husband and wife quibbling: “It says bakery. I don’t see a bakery.” “In the store?” “There is no store.” “Yes, that door says store.” At the counter: “Where’s the bakery?” Wait staff: “The baked goods used to be inside, but due to COVID, we remodeled and have our bakery goods here. Is there something special you would like?” (Husband and wife now niggling over what they would like.) “Wonderful choice!”
The young man has waited on me numerous times. This day, the way he handled the customers with grace made me think he was a manager, setting a good example for other employees. I thought it must be frustrating sometimes dealing with the attitudes, impatience and, at times, downright irascibility that don’t quite fit with this valley life.
I approached him and asked, “Are you a manager?” “No,” he replied. “I can go get a manager.” Of course, he would offer to. His name is Arie Knops, and he’s obviously learned the best customer service practices. He relayed that there are all kinds of queries, annoyances, as well as an equal share of pleasantries, that come through the line during a Mazama Store shift, but his positivity is the best neutralizer for any situation. Great job, Arie!
Another group of visitors this time of year in Mazama are NoBo PCT hikers. In PCT parlance, that’s northbound. They are a colorful, intriguing group. Really, you want to hike hundreds of miles (maximum 2,653 miles from Mexico to Canada)? And what does your mother think about that?
I met Drew, Lauren and Zane at the Mazama turnoff hitchhiking back to Rainy Pass. A truck quickly pulled off, ready to pick them up. Rightly so, since it was Forrest (“Madd Baker”), a Washington PCT trail angel; his passion is to travel the trail exit areas, provide rides, provisions, or information, as needed. The young hikers were from Texas, Australia and Indiana, respectively, and each shared their PCT trail name: Drewzini, Mobey (like a mobster, she said in her Australian accent), and Cool Runnings. Forrest spoke of an interesting hiker trail-named “Santa” whom he had given a ride. Santa is 74 years old, a 1960s rock star from the Bay Area where he was the lead singer for Harbinger Complex — must have been Jim Hockstaff.
Finally, Methow Trails has installed a new “off-ramp” for trail use on the east side of the Mazama bridge. Skiers, bikers and Ginger, the PistenBully groomer, will have a much easier time descending the elevation to the MCT.