Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
My friend Mike at the Willits Store confided in me the other day that he thought common courtesy had failed to keep up with evolution. I hadn’t really thought about it, which probably indicates I’m part of the problem, but his words have been haunting me ever since.
It’s the simple stuff that separates us from the barbarians, things like looking behind you when you go through a door to make sure you’re not letting it slam on the person behind you. The argument could be made, and often is, that such lack of courtesy is not rudeness but a general lack of understanding. If that was a coherent possibility, we’d instead be writing this column about stupid people.
Aspen always has seemed to have the unfortunate ability to attract a certain species of undesirable folks, those who might have a modicum of respect wherever they come from and who feel compelled to convince the rest us of their self-believed importance. You might be a big fish in a big pond wherever you came from, but no matter who you are, you can trust that being one of the fish is about the best you can do in Aspen.
There was the guy who called our office, insisting we perform an impossible feat, “I mean right now,” based solely on the fact that we should have appropriately recognized his name (or the name of his famous wife), whatever that was. He vociferously explained that he was worth $20 million, to which we could only reply, “In this town that’ll at least buy you a cup of coffee.”
Well, wait, maybe it is about stupidity. On the gondola, after listening to a guy plead and beg on his cellphone with some gal about going out with him, I felt a little embarrassed overhearing his desperation, not once but twice. When he dialed a third girl, giving her the same suppliant line, I forcefully informed him, “This is not a friggin’ telephone booth.” He offered to kick my ass, and I can’t tell you how much I wished he would’ve tried. If he’d started it, I could have claimed self-defense.
It’s not all about skiing, of course, but I don’t run into much weird behavior when it’s just my horses, cows and me up the mountains. Oh, yeah, the occasional biker rolls by, but most of the nonmotorized kind have manners and understand the essence of sharing the trail. The dirt bikers get some understanding, for after a day on one of those monsters, they’re not unlike the Nez Perce, who were always in a warlike mood toward their peaceful neighbors. We always figured it was because they (Nez Perce) had nothing better to ride than Appaloosa horses.
Just the other day, a friend set his lunch tray down at his table at Bonnie’s, went back to get some utensils and when he returned, found his chair occupied by some broad-browed guy fussing with his boots. When queried, the guy said, “I’ll move in a minute.” More like about three minutes later – the fellow got up and moved to his own spot, a couple of tables down, without apology. My buddy, showing great restraint and magnanimousness, quietly reclaimed his chair.
Pedestrians, shopkeepers, people in lift lines, waitrons, service workers, one and all – take notice. Christmas season is here, and disguised among the tourists we’re happy to see are the “important people.” Some of us like to badmouth ’em, even as they leave heaps of money on the local economy. It’s distressing to realize that some of us who live here can be as rude, and as stupid, as those we think are unfit to rub shoulders with us “locals.” Remember who makes up the freshman class. That’s the pool we draw from for “replacement locals.”
Living through the next two weeks takes fortitude and strength of purpose. If you’re wearing sarcasm on your sleeve as something to be proud of, be careful you’re not pumping up your regressive genes. If you feel fortunate to live here, the rest falls into place.
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