Roger Marolt: It is part of the price we pay to live here
Is it too much to ask visitors to wear masks? I am afraid it might be. The right to be obstinate is part of what we offer to entice them. They behave the way we have conditioned them to. Come one, come all, with plenty of cash, and make yourselves at home. Relax. Relapse. Whatever you want. It’s Aspen!
Add disagreeable COVID-19 behavior to the list of anything goes. Visitors behaving badly is another cost of living here. It’s as real as the affordable housing shortage and the inexplicable price of gas. Should they yammer away on their cellphones on the gondola? Should they swoop parking spots in the City Market lot? Double park in front of The Wheeler? Do they need to be so demanding?
You can’t take any of this personally. You are the last thing they are thinking about. It takes everything they’ve got to concentrate on getting their money’s worth, here in the church of the tragically hip.
Do you really want to live here? If so, prepare for cold January days, June cottonwood allergies, and tourists irritating you. It is all part of the deal.
Rather than running around yelling at tourists to put masks on, a resident will do better staying away from perceived dangers in their wakes. It’s not hard. I don’t need to be anywhere near downtown except for work. I’m in, I’m out. Loitering for conversation can wait for better times. If not, we can meet somewhere out there, off the beaten path. This is part of the home field advantage. If you feel trapped in a mob on the mall, you might not be “local” enough yet. It doesn’t take 50 years to learn how to get away.
It is enough to know smart people are wearing masks. Science backs this up. Go ahead, play the fool on the hill, your lot in life being to put up patiently with the less enlightened. If Dr. Anthony Fauci and a bevy of incontrovertible statistics can’t convince someone that wearing a mask is smart when it is his job to do so, then how are you going to accomplish it by getting into a shouting match over it in front of Carl’s completely for the hell of it? Setting a good example is your best bet. Being a local is your ace in the hole. So many visitors would love to be mistaken for you and, for that reason, they watch. It’s better that they eventually rise to your example than you one day realizing you are absentmindedly carrying your skis tails first through Gondola Plaza.
I find comfort in looking at this situation and how I am reacting to it and telling myself, “I don’t see much chance of coming down with this thing.” It’s an honest evaluation. I haven’t been in any crowds. I don’t get within 6 feet of people. If the grocery store is crowded, I come back later. I don’t touch people, not even light, European double-cheek kissing. I wash my hands after everything and before most. I wear a mask. If I come down with this thing, it will be by an act of God and not of my own stupidity. This helps me sleep.
To make a place your home requires a committed love not unlike that found in a good marriage. First, you need to be observant enough to see the truth of what you are undertaking. Then, be honest enough to fully accept it. If you get past this part maintaining enthusiasm and embracing the town with all of its faults, you must then renounce any expectation of correcting those faults. Resolving not to try will make things better. If you can’t help yourself, keeping expectations low is compulsory.
Unless you have a vaccine recipe in your back pocket, you are not going to save the world from COVID-19, much less Aspen with its built-in imported attitude, so you might as well focus on saving yourself, your family and select friends who still nod along to your proselytizing after you’ve had one too many or who post encouragement on your Facebook page.
We don’t want to become bitter over this. We’ve suffered plenty already and there is simply too much else that could go wrong yet. It is out of our control, and by “it” I mean almost everything. Do what you can and then head deep into the woods for a good cry. This will help lighten the load.
Roger Marolt is not convinced a country with 5% of the world’s population and 25% of COVID-19 deaths can claim exceptionalism in all things. email@example.com