The most confusing question during the first week of the Winter Omympics has not been who would win which medal. It has been the task of deciding whether these Games are a lovely, snowy, slow-paced winter carnival or the most incredibly butched boondoggle and ripoff imaginable.
Sarcastic quips, one-liners and a general mood of gallows humor have helped thousands here survive these first few days with their spirits still basically upbeat.
Tickets to Wednesday's Opening Ceremonies cost $50.40. The whole show lasted only an hour with much of the foolishness canceled for one reason or another, prompting one man to comment, "Fifty-forty isn't the price of the ticket. It's the range of IQs of the people who were dumb enough to buy them."
Folks in the front-row seats at the speed skating rink on Thursday had to feel like fools. Their tickets cost as much as $67.50. Just 10 yards away were hundreds of people looking through a mesh fense with a view almost as good. And those impromptu standing-room seats were free.
Transportation has, of course, turned into a colossal snafu, just as the Lake Placid Organizing Committee had predicted for over a year.
Room accommodations have been remote and miserable and Lake Placid entrepreneurs have not been above changing the terms of contracts with their victims once they knew for sure that they had 'em over a barrel.
A well-known wire-service columnist thought he had reached agreement for room and board for $99 a day -- a mere pittance. When his landlord informed him that meals would, henceforth, be charged to him separately, he was not surprised.
However, when the landlord told him that he would be billed retroactively for meals he had already eaten, the journalist was furious.
"It's simple," said the landlord. "You ate 'em, you pay for 'em."
The landlord is a member of the Lake Placid Chamber of Commerce.
The point has been reached where total inconvenience has been accepted here as an inevitability. Any person in Lake Placid who assumes he can travel 10 miles in less than two hours, minimum, hasn't been paying attention.
And any spectator who shows up after an event is over, rather than before it, has only himself to blame. Forewarnings have come in an avalanche.
Naturally, telephone service during peak hours is almost impossible, since a long-distance call can take 30 minutes to place.
In such surroundings, a prankish relaxed attitude provides the best chance for survival.
Even lower-echelon Olympic helpers have caught the bug. The computerized Olympic sheets of data, results schedules and minutiae have begun to show strange entries.
"Clark Kent-Lois Lane, Yugoslavia," made an appearance in the listing for figure-skating pairs. When the list of judges was released for the figure skating finals, it consisted of nine figure-skating looking names: Brennan, Black, Rehnquist, etc.
They were, of course, the names of the nine Supreme Court justices.
Despite all the incidental outrage here (almost none of which is reported or even mentioned in passing on ABC-TV), the overall mood of these Games still seems to be remarkably jolly.
Walk the streets at night, and you are in the midst of some Dickensian idyll about Christmases past.
The Adirondack scenery, after a foot of fresh snow in the last four days, is as gorgeous as any postcard imaginable. Days of pure clear sky, showing the mountains sharply, have alternated with moody days of white-on-black under snow. The former seem etched like paintings by Breughel; the latter are as evocative as Andrew Wyeth's work from Maine.