Waiter, call me a taxi all right sir, you're a taxi

— You've probably never had the food server's recurring nightmare. But I have.

Unless you've worked in the service industry in a ski resort, you don't know what it's like to toil in the trenches in March. But everyone who lives in Ski Town USA should experience it. You would come away with a better appreciation of what it takes to make this place tick.

Really, unless you've been employed as a waiter or waitress, you don't know what it's like to go to work at 4 p.m. each day in March, knowing with all certainty that you are about to get slammed, and you will run your tail off for the next five to six hours.

This is no joke; I used to depart for my shift each evening repeating the mantra: "I am bulletproof, I am bulletproof, I am bulletproof "

It helped a great deal to feel invincible, because before the night was over, my faith would be tested.

I haven't had the bad dreams for many years. But I'll never forget them.

In my dream, I'm waiting tables at a nice steak and prime rib restaurant.

The night starts out calmly I've got only five tables in my section and everything is under control. Table A-1, a four-top, orders two bottles of wine, and I'm relaxed enough to chat with the guests while I open the wine without spilling a drop.

"Why, yes ma'am, that is a subtle hint of lingonberry you detect in that pinot noir."

Gradually, things begin to deteriorate. The restaurant's host decides it would be fun to give me four tables at once, and from there things begin to fall apart.

People are asking for separate checks and one lady has the audacity to insist that I remove her king crab meat from the claws for her. I begin to forget little things, like the salad course.

Fast forward to the good parts: The restaurant I work in has turned into a medieval castle. I'm responsible for about 190 customers in a massive dining hall with stone floors and trestle tables. The customers are banging heavy silver chalices on the wooden tables and yelling, "Waiter, more mead!"

The kitchen is down a long arched hallway that must be a quarter-mile in length. As I'm running back to the kitchen to turn in an order I fall, and try as I might, I just can't seem to get up again.

Then I wake up. I won't tell you I'm in a cold sweat, but my heart is definitely beating rapidly.

I haven't had the recurring nightmare for many years, but every year, when I flip the calendar to March, I think about the good folks who entertain our guests in Steamboat. And for that reason, I was pleased to learn last week of a new program called "Star of Steamboat."

Chamber Resort Association Executive Vice President Sandy Evans-Hall is responsible for this little piece of genius.

Guests in Steamboat this spring are being handed business cards emblazoned with a gold star and the phrase "You are a Star of Steamboat." The card has blanks for a person's name, employer and phone number.

Vacationing skiers and riders are being asked if they feel during their visit that they've been treated exceptionally well by one of the many people serving them that they present them with the card.

The card could be given to a food server, a taxi driver, a lift op, the maintenance guy who fixes the plumbing at 1 a.m. or just someone on the street who patiently explains how Steamboat got its name.

The service industry worker fills in the card and returns it to the ski area information center or to the chamber information center.

During the hospitality ball near the end of the ski season, on April 8, the cards will be drawn and some seriously nice prizes will be awarded, including a trip to Florida. Sweet!

The tourists are going to buy into this and get the warm fuzzies, too. We've all been on vacation, had someone buff us out and wish we had a convenient way to let their bosses know they've got a special employee.

So this is all good, and I know we're all going to have pleasant dreams tonight. But there's still something I need to clear up.

Yes, I'm willing to bring you your dang salad dressing on the side in a little cup, because I know it's a matter of life and death for you. But do not, I repeat, do not tell me you wish we served roquefort instead of blue cheese dressing. Because you wouldn't know the difference between roquefort and blue cheese if I gave you six months of French lessons and fed it to you intravenously!

Got that buster?

Tom Ross is a longtime Steamboat resident. His column is published every Monday in Steamboat Today.

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