Last weekend my friend David asked if he could borrow my pickup truck. Of course you can, I said. When you buy a pickup truck, loaning it out to your friends is implicit in the sale. Read the fine print. I bought a 1986 Ford F-150 after I graduated from college, and I spent the next five years helping my friends move from apartment to apartment in Boston. My fee was pizza and beer. And friendship. It was a good deal for me.
David paid me with a hug and a four-pack of Heady Topper from the Alchemist. He didn’t need to give me anything, but he gets it. He gets Vermont’s barter economy, where the spiritual value of the tender is as important as its commercial worth. This weekend, I cashed his payment, cracking one of the cans of Heady Topper. I looked at the can, and realized that David isn’t the only one of my friends and neighbors who gets it. Printed on the side of the can of Heady are the words, “Don’t Be A D-bag, Recycle This Can!”
It would be nice to think that in the second half of the year 2015 in Vermont, U.S.A., potential litterers would not need the exhortations of a brewmaster to do the right thing. And of the top three kinds of litter found on the road (Dunkin’ Donuts Styrofoam cups—themselves unconscionable this deep into human evolution—McDonald’s bags, and Bud Light cans), empty cans of Heady rarely make an appearance. But still, Jon and Jen Kimmich of the Alchemist Brewery get it. It’s important to them that their customers aren’t just giving them money for beer, they’re responsible as well. Sometimes, what you are not is as important as what you are, and avoiding D-Bag status forms a critical part of the Heady Topper drinker’s personality profile.
The term “getting it” is a tricky one to use, because it can mean different things to different people and cultures. But basically it means doing the right thing, as opposed to doing the thing right. We’re reminded of that at the inn during this busiest time of the year. Vermont’s fall foliage spectacular draws people from around the world hoping to experience the colors they’ve seen in the coffee table books. This year, the fall colors are a little late, probably due to a warmer than average September. And this has caused consternation among some folks.
When someone plans the “trip of a lifetime,” and then it rains, or there’s a windstorm that rips the leaves off the trees, or the colors are delayed, they are naturally disappointed. The weather is the weather, and until we can forecast months in advance for local conditions, everything will be a risk. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and it isn’t. To base the happiness of a trip on a single factor is to invite disappointment. And Vermont offers so much more to see and do; foliage can be a colorful backdrop to those activities.
So why am I talking about D-Bags and “getting it” and the delay in fall foliage? I think I just outlined it. Last week someone with a multi-night reservation called several times, concerned about the news that the leaves were delayed in their changing, and that he would be disappointed. We talked to him at length, assuring him that if foliage wasn’t at its peak in our valley, it would be in the next valley over, or up the sides of the mountains. No use. He cancelled, and is now probably congratulating himself for prompt action in the face of potential disappointment.
There’s a quote on my website from G.K. Chesterton that says, “The traveler sees what he sees; the tourist sees what he has come to see.” So we may have lost a tourist this week, but we hope to gain many more travelers in his stead. I might even share a Heady with one or two. After all, I don’t want to be a D-Bag.