Roger Marolt: Roger This
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
There seem to have been lots of letters to the paper lately encouraging us to single out our wealthy visitors for extra-special treatment, like our livelihoods depend on it. Ha!
I see this implying three awful things: 1. Wealthy people are rude and hard to be naturally kind to. 2. Wealthy people are demanding, and thus we are expected to work harder to please them. 3. If either or both of these scenarios are in fact true, then by playing into them we are in a roundabout way insulting the wealthy. It’s a no-win situation, so why go there?
Besides, how would you feel if the tables were turned and everybody treated you like royalty around this town? That’s right: You’d feel like you didn’t belong.
On the other hand, how would you feel if people laid it all on the line and told you what they really thought? Treated you like a jerk if you were acting like one? If they made fun of your fur-collared coat and how you strutted around like some sort of clueless dandy? You’d be thankful, right? If enough people who live here pointed out all the ridiculous traits and customs you brought with you from your life in the city, you’d want to change to fit in. This is the start to becoming an Aspen local.
So to change our M.O. now and start a communitywide movement to make rich visitors feel like they belong right off the jet would be a mistake. I mean, it’s a competitive marketplace. We have a desirable and recognized brand to protect. The time-tested way we’ve done that is to make fun of the turkeys.
You think I’m kidding. The thing Aspen has that no other resort will ever have is “Aspen local” status. It is the one thing that anyone who spends any amount of time here wants. Many of our visitors have everything money can buy: jets, monster homes, Range Rovers, super-expensive custom-made skis made to look like old crappy wooden ones, you name it. But what we who live here have can’t be bought at a discount – acceptance. It’s priceless! Why give it away for a measly tip?
You can earn millions of dollars much more easily than you can be acknowledged in this town as one of its own. If we ensure that folks have to work harder to get in, then the more they’ll appreciate it when they do … and the richer we will become in the process. Being smug to wealthy visitors is an unfriendly reminder that they are going to have to pay to play in our local club. Traditionally, they haven’t been able to pull out the wallets quickly enough once they get this message.
We’ve all been infatuated with someone out of our league at one time or another. I want you to go back to that painfully wonderful time in your life just for a moment.
Think of that beautiful creature whose golden voice you would have filled your ears with Elmer’s paste to keep inside your head for just a few seconds longer if only she would speak to you. How did you feel on that magical day when you accidentally bumped into her in the cafeteria line and, without thinking, said “hi” and she responded smugly by asking if you would hand her another tray, there was something stuck on the back of hers, and, by the way, did you know there is toilet paper stuck to your shoe? That’s right! You loved her all the more. It’s the same with all the most desirable clubs and organizations.
It’s weird, but people can’t get enough of the bad treatment from those they desire most. People admire us locals. They want to be like us. Many would die to be like us. Lots have gone so far as to waste money on timeshares to be like us. We really shouldn’t risk breaking that chemistry now by acting like we care.
While the one thing our rich visitors want most is to be recognized as an Aspen local, the one thing they need least is another hunchback with a hand in their pocket and his lips perpetually pursed within smooching distance of their buns. They live with that constantly back home. Give them a break and a snide remark.
I’m not saying that we should go out of the way to be mean, rude and nasty to our visitors. But if you don’t like what they’re up to or how they act, there’s nothing wrong with razzing and ridiculing them. We certainly don’t take it easy on one another when we disagree. I see no reason to exclude outsiders. After all, they’re people, too.
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