All places, from classrooms, to ice skating rinks, to malls, to the peak of Everest have a set of unwritten behavioral rules associated with them. Cultural Geographers refer to these implicit instructions as the Rules of Place. When these rules are broken, the obstruction is always apparent. Take the ski slopes for instance. You have been skiing/ snowboarding for years. You are familiar with the Rules of Place associated with ski resorts. You dress a certain way; you act a certain way. You understand the principles of behavior associated with this familiar place- how to move in lift lines, how to position yourself on the mountain, how loud to speak, and how you should dress. Sometimes people push the boundaries. Sometimes people break the Rules of Place by behaving inappropriately or dressing inappropriately. This is done for the reaction, for the thrill of breaking the Rules of Place. Wearing a bikini on the mountain is an obstruction of the Rules of Place. People stare at you. They watch you. They pull out their phones and blatantly film you. If you were dressed according to the rules, they would not notice you. They would not film you. In fact, taking a video of a stranger breaks the Rules of Place, but since you have already broken them with your attire, they are comfortable treating you as a spectacle. However, wearing that same bikini is perfectly appropriate at a beach or pool. Behavior is very dependent on your location and the rules associated with that location. It seems obvious enough, but there is an entire subject area dedicated to understanding our relation to places and environment, and how these relationships shape our behavior and the world.
The rules for a ski resort differ from the rules of say a roller derby, and yet within a ski resort there are specific rules for different parts of the resort. We behave differently in the parking lot, in the bathroom, in the lodge, on the slopes, and on the chairlift. The chairlift is a fascinating location because very few places encourage dialog between strangers in the quite the same way chairlifts do. The ride is short enough to risk bold conversation, yet long enough to grab a substantial glimpse into someone’s personality. The mountain atmosphere and the action sports adrenaline have us in the perfect carefree mood for lift socializing, and the intimate chair in the air provides the location. We have enough in common- a love for the mountain- to engage in conversation, and enough in contrast to learn from one another.
So, here’s the point: Chairlifts are the perfect setting for conversing with interesting people. We want to hear your stories. Who have you met? What have you talked about? PLEASE COMMENT below. We are genuinely interested in your chairlift encounters- humorous, inspiring, embarrassing. We want it all! Thanks everyone! Definitely looking forward to your tales from above.
photo courtesy of Sharat Ganapati