Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"hoy por tí, mañana por yo"

Last year around this time I read a story about a stranded motorist sitting in a friend's borrowed car with a tire blowout but without a jack, watching three hours of traffic (including tow trucks) drive by indifferently, until finally saviors stop in the unlikely form of two Mexican migrant fruit pickers (who don't even speak English) and their children.  After much difficult, filthy, sweaty work by the motorist and the Mexican husband (including breaking the tire iron of the Mexican husband, whose wife immediately drives off to buy a replacement), the motorist tries to give the husband a $20 bill, but with no success.  He then succeeds in giving the money to the wife.

As they are about to depart, a daughter who speaks English asks the motorist if he'd had lunch yet, then runs over a tamale to him.  He opens up the foil to find not only a delicious tamale, but also his $20 bill.  He runs back to the Mexicans and desperately tries yet again to convince the husband to accept some financial compensation for such valuable help from a family that is clearly of exceedingly limited means.  The husband just shakes his head no, smiles, and then mustering all his command of English, speaks so much with just four words:
"Today you, tomorrow me."

Some searching informs me that this was his translation of a Spanish saying, "hoy por tí, mañana por yo."
And such is the theme of an avalanche transceiver, as it both receives for you and transmits for me.  By contrast, a probe and shovel are only for you; a helmet, Avalung, and airbag pack are only for me.

About three years and one month ago, Rob Liberman was skiing near his home base of Telluride -- a day before heading up to Alaska for his spring heliski guiding job -- when he and his touring partner heard an avalanche, went to investigate, and turned their transceivers to receive in case anyone else in need was on transmit.
The first thing the completely buried victim remembers after blacking out during the avalanche's violent ride was a stranger, Rob Liberman, holding the victim's head and saying, "Thank God. We have you. Calm down. Breathe."

Yesterday, Rob Liberman was hit by an avalanche while heliski guiding.  Other skiers, including from another party, turned their transceivers to receive for his transceiver that was on transmit.

I wish this story had a happy ending.  (And even worse, a client injured in the same avalanche is currently "clinging to life."  [Unfortunate update:  the client died in a Seattle hospital the day after the avalanche.])

I didn't recognize his name when I first read the tragic news, but my email archives turned up an exchange from this past fall in his position at DPS skis.  Sure, he wanted to sell DPS skis because he worked for DPS skis, but I could also tell that he thought skiing on DPS skis made skiing more fun, and he wanted more skiers to have more fun.

I was about to conclude that the next time I'm having fun skiing (which is of course every time I'm skiing, since that's why we ski, right?), I'll dedicate some turns to Rob.  But no, that's just more about me.
Instead, the next time I can do something to help someone whom I don't know -- even if it's far less dramatic and important than Rob's save three years ago of a complete stranger's life -- I'll dedicate that to Rob.

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