A few days before Christmas, I stood in Recreation Equipment Inc. selecting cross-country ski equipment. Feeling very smug and very rich with a Christmas gift check warming my pocket, I chose advanced technique equipment: cross-country downhill skis with metal edges and the skier's equivalent in footgear, a telemark boot. Setting it on the floor beside my foot, I glanced at the salesman. ``These look about right. Think you can fit me?'' I asked, trying to decide whether he belonged in high school or college. He peered at my face, then at the skis and the boot, then back at my 72 years of wrinkles. Flashing a wide grin, he snapped his fingers. ``I get it. You have a great-grandchild about your size. Boy or girl?''
``The ski outfit is for me. Decided it'd be fun to try something new.''
``New!'' He glanced at my choice of ski gear. Muttering an uneasy, ``Be right back,'' he hurried off.
He returned with another smooth-faced kid in tow and introduced him as Bill, the departmental manager.
``Get mighty heavy,'' Bill suggested, tapping the boot I'd chosen.
``I was just thinking how light they are compared to my downhillers.''
``Ah! Downhill,'' he said. Then, ``How long ago?''
``Last Thursday?'' He raised his eyebrows. ``Even so. Cross-countries skis are different. Take a lot of energy. How far do you expect to travel on these?''
``Not more than five, 10 miles.''
``Five or 10 miles!'' Bill exploded with laughter. ``If my gram got a third of a mile on those I'd cheer forever.'' He jerked his thumb at the other salesman. ``Get her a pair of bindings, Jim.''
``But ... what kind? How long do you think she'll use them?'' Jim stammered.
Bill appraised me from graying hair to sneakered feet. ``Just to be on the safe side, I'd figure about 25 years. Get her the best we have.''