Going to the Chapel

wedding rings

Matt texted me: “When did you get married?” Now, let’s not tell Lynn, but this was the exact question I had been asking myself just a couple of days before Matt wanted to know, and without putting a great deal of effort into it, I never came up with an answer.

I mean, I know Lynn and I got married on an Oct. 1, but I couldn’t recall which Oct. 1. As I like to tell her, it feels like forever, even though I know we’re a little bit shy of that. So I went looking for Kara.

Not that I expect Kara to remember when I got married, even though she attended and you would think everyone present, including Matt and possibly me, should have this auspicious date burned into our brains. But I figured Kara remembers when she got married, and that would be enough to give me the clue I needed to bring to mind my own wedding date.

Kara got married precisely one October before me. That’s easy to remember because we’ve been getting married at the rate of one Pat’s employee per year, starting with Kara. She married Geoff in 2015, which means I married Lynn in 2016. Ben and Kat got hitched in 2017.

This started to look like a pattern, so we informed James that his year was 2018. But he ignored us. Fortino, however, picked the ball up this year, and married a young woman whose name I haven’t seen spelled. Kara had it down yesterday as Miyeli, but I’m sure I hear a “J” in the pronunciation. Bryan, who does odd jobs for us on occasion (and came already married to Nancy), remembers her name by thinking to himself, “my jelly.” She’s a very nice young woman, however she spells and pronounces her name. In a bit of exciting news, in February they plan to welcome Baby Leandro to their family.

In the 21 years (in fact, just about this time of year 21 years ago — happy anniversary to me) I’ve been at Pat’s, the workforce has been overwhelmingly single. This is the first time the one exception is the single guy.

This reflects the changing dynamic of the workforce at Pat’s. For many years the bulk of the employee pool came from schools, either Gunnison High or Western Whatever State It Happened To Be In. Working at Pat’s was always intended, both by them and by me, because I usually needed full-time help in the summer but part-time (or none) during the school year, to be a job to pay the bills until school was done.

Turnover was high, although several of these students, like Ben (the first one, not the current one) and Loren, put in about eight summers each. And we’re not completely done with rapid turnover: I had totally forgotten until Gilly said something this week about the girl who worked one day this year, called in sick the next, and then was never heard from again.

I doubt it’s a coincidence that our employee pool start stabilizing as the workload increased and full-time positions became available. Kara was either still in high school or just out when she and a friend asked if they could share a summer job. Kara soon took over the entire summer job, then was part-time year-round, then full-time, then when the position opened up she took the job of Woman in Charge, and now she is my business partner in what has been an extremely fruitful relationship. And she got married along the way, conveniently doing so one year before I did so that she can always remember for me how many years I’ve been married.

Fortino also started as a part-time high school student, but now, seven-ish years later, is our main production guy. Ben came to us out of college. He had just earned a print-making degree in California and had followed his uncle’s advice to spend some time in Crested Butte as a lift operator for the ski area before settling into a career. He was walking by Pat’s Screen Printing one day when he saw the screens and came in, just as we were in desperate need for a graphic designer.

I did overhear him tell someone that first year that he could never imagine living in a place like Gunnison for any length of time, but then this place — as it does so often — sunk its hooks into him. Kara and I were planning to make him part of the management team, transitioning him in as I backed my way out, but so far Gunnison has not managed to sink hooks into his wife, and she is itching to go someplace bigger. They don’t appear to be in a rush about this, but at some point we may find ourselves searching once again for a graphic designer.

Gilly, who has been married more years than all the rest of us put together and doubled, like Ben had no intention of landing in Gunnison. She was a literal world traveler, having left her home in England for any number of ports of call (including Peru, where Fortino’s wife originated) before a friend suggested they go to Crested Butte. And there she met a man now her husband, and here she is, 25 or more years later.

Which just leaves James. [I don’t mean to forget Jeff and Donnie, who both have worked for well over a decade in part-time capacity. Jeff had a “commitment ceremony” with Priscilla several years ago; Donnie, who retired from his job with us this fall, has never been married.] Like many people, James started as a full-time summer employee who then worked part-time during the school year while he attended Western. Then, instead of moving on he just moved in, and now works full-time in just about every capacity we have.

Even though he slacked on our marriage timeline, we’ll keep him around. Diversity is good, and it’s important for us to remember those unfettered days when the bulk of our workforce was footloose and fancy free — now that the rest of us are settled married folk.

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