Emmaville Store, circa 1969

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Emmaville Shuffle

You know its winter when you witness the Emmaville Shuffle. The dancers walk up to the counter in our store and start patting themselves. They grab their butts, pause briefly to think, and then start unzipping their outer wear. They stretch and grope inside their suits, and sometimes undo more zippers and straps before their hands dive back in. We sometimes feel the need to avert our eyes.

You might think we’re running some kind of backwoods burlesque show here, but all we’re really talking about is snowmobilers trying to find their money. We call it the Emmaville Shuffle.

While they’re gyrating and stripping, we occupy ourselves by trying to guess who they are. We like to greet our regular customers by name. But with their helmets, visors, and face masks on, it’s impossible to tell who is standing on the other side of the counter. They seem to know us, saying a muffled hello or greeting us by name like a friendly Darth Vader. Not until they complete the Shuffle and then pull out their credit cards do we know who they are. If they pay in cash, we may never know. We wind up saying something like “thank you, see you later, person I should know.”

The donning and doffing of snowmobile attire also requires that we adjust our usual customer service routine. When snowmobilers come in for a beer or a burger, we allow them time to disrobe. We wait until they’ve shed gloves, helmet, facemask, and jacket and arranged everything before asking what they’re drinking or if they’d like to see a menu. Sometimes, they just need to pee.

Similarly, when it’s time to go we wait a bit to allow them to get dressed before we say goodbye. If we thank them for coming in and wish them an enjoyable ride before they’re fully dressed, there’s always an awkward silence until the final glove is pulled on.

We don’t mean to poke fun, and really appreciate their business. We know all that gear keeps them safe and warm and we applaud them for getting out there and enjoying winter in the Northwoods. But if they remember to put their method of payment in an outside pocket, they wouldn’t have to do the Emmaville Shuffle.

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