Autumn Phillips: Why does anyone leave? |

Autumn Phillips: Why does anyone leave?

My grandparents were standing in the doorway, waving goodbye and good riddance.

We were waving back as my dad yelled one last, “It was good to see you,” and, “We’ll miss you,” out the window of the car.

Then he put the car in reverse and held down the button until the window silently slid closed.

“I’m always happy to see my parents and always happy to leave,” he said.

“And they feel the same about you,” his wife said.


At the end of November and again at the end of December, people travel from all over America to eat copious amounts of bland food and sweets with other people they’ve known for decades, but who they barely know. They eat and make conversation with people they have been sentenced to know for their entire lives — a blessing and a curse.

As Ben Franklin said, “Fish and visitors stink after three days.”

And it had been five days when my dad pulled up to the airport terminal. Ben was right.

The car slowed down and my dad searched his dashboard for the “eject” button. Not finding one, he opted to stop the car instead, get out and give me a goodbye, good riddance hug.

“It was good to see you,” we both said.

“And it’s good to see you go,” we both thought.

I gave him one last pat on the back and walked into the airport.

As soon as the doors closed behind me, I took a deep breath. I breathed the air of my own life. The life I have created for myself, not the air of my childhood.

In Denver, the Alpine Taxi arrived on time and filled with Steamboat residents returning from the Thanksgiving holiday. Everyone was exhausted but giddy to be returning “to the ‘Boat.”

The last arrival was a tanned 18-year-old, full of stories about his recent sailing adventure. He was heading to Steamboat for the first time. He was full of questions, and the occupants of the taxi were full of advice.

This is the perfect time to look for work, they said. Make sure you get a job that gives you a ski pass.

People in Steamboat are really nice, they said. You’ll be just fine.

Except …

You’ll never have a girlfriend in Steamboat, they said. There are only 40 women.

I had to roll my eyes as the speech began about the dearth of women and the months of loneliness and rejection the newcomer had ahead of him.

Listen: According to the 2000 census, there are 10,599 males in Routt County and 9,091 females. Yes, there are more men than women, but the ratio is not the fabled “6 to 1.”

The reason men in this town experience rejection is something I call “Lam Syndrome.” Two pieces of advice for the new guy:

1. Women do not think it is fun to watch you play video games. It was not fun when we were 15, and it is not fun now.

2. Pretending to be lazy and dumb is not as sexy as you may think.

There are women here, young man, but you will never find them if you don’t leave the couch.

Back to the Alpine Taxi, now cresting the summit of Rabbit Ears Pass. Everyone in the van was aware that the 18-year-old in the back row was seeing Steamboat for the first time. Talk of the dating scene fell away, and it was as if each rider was reliving the day they arrived.

The man behind the wheel was the driver who brought me to Steamboat for the first time almost two years ago. He’s the kind of guy who wears a cowboy hat and whose voice trails off at the end of each sentence like a nostalgic storyteller.

“I love this part,” the driver said. And everyone moved their heads a bit so the new guy could look out the front window of the van as the valley presented itself. “It makes you wonder why you ever left.”

The driver dropped everyone off one by one and everyone said “good luck” to the fresh-faced 18-year-old.

Then it was his turn. He stepped out of the taxi with his luggage, the doors of the taxi closed behind him, and I heard the jaws of Steamboat close as he was swallowed into the belly of the valley.

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