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Gemma & Nigel

This story is part of a series, Gondola Life. Every day to get up the mountain in Bansko, we share 30 minutes in a cramped gondola car with a few strangers. Then when the day is over, we do it again. This is usually a pretty silent affair — people are tired going up and exhausted coming down — but sometimes the atmosphere is just right, and we get a glimpse of other lives on the mountain.

The Most Innocuous Tourists in Bansko

There is a phrase you probably know and use: “Bored to death.” To me it always seemed difficult to achieve: Surely you could just do something else?

I now understand it’s actually a very active phrase. If you are bored to death it’s probably because you had to take brash action to remove yourself from a painfully boring situation.

Such as jumping out of a gondola car mid-ride.

Allow me to introduce Gemma and Nigel (I made those names up). When they clambered in, I had high hopes of a nice chat. They were about my age (ok, probably younger shut up) and they’d had the foresight to bring pizza along for the ride (three slices). I don’t need much more to spark a friendship.

Thank god I held my tongue.

Gemma was vapid and Nigel smitten, so I spent the ride listening to absolute nonsense delivered in quiet, posh, monotone British accents. And watching Gemma untangle a knot in one specific lock of hair. They didn’t acknowledge my presence even once, despite the fact that I unabashedly followed the conversation. Didn’t even try to look busy.

I learned:

  • Nigel needs more sunscreen than an albino on the equator. They — yes, they — applied so much to his face almost didn’t disappear into his skin.
  • Gemma didn’t want any of the third piece of pizza but ultimately ate half of it. He knows her soooo well.
  • Nigel is soooo happy to be here with Gemma’s family.
  • Gemma and her cousins learned to ski in France, which is soooo much better. These slopes are good for beginners, like you, Nigel.
  • Nigel is learning how to ski. Gemma is soooo much better.
  • Gemma’s mom is somewhere in the lodge. Nigel can leave his backpack with her. That’ll be soooo much easier.
  • Nigel brushes his teeth before he kisses Gemma. (I think I’m missing some context on this.) (Or at least I hope I am.)

How did such a small amount of information take 35 minutes to convey? How did they not once acknowledged another human presence? How did I keep myself from jumping?

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