Vail Daily column: Outside Happy Valley
September 22, 2016
For those that have followed my illustrious career in the Vail Valley, I apologize for my absence. The three of you know who you are.
The rest of you truly need to know what I've learned (or at least observed) in the past five months of my life. I am no longer an Eagle County resident nor am I employed with a business in fairy-tale valley, so I have granted myself immunity and will speak freely.
Before making my decision to leave and return to Denver for a high-paying job that didn't materialize, I weighed my options and argued with myself, "seven reasons to stay and 11 reasons to leave." "Myself" being the operative word here. (Sixteen years in the valley and I knew a thousand people but only had two friends. One of the 11 reasons to leave.)
Denver would give me the opportunity to live in the house I could afford rather than stay trapped in a company condo working for the plantation boss. With no chance of ever owning in a place that truly defines the "have and have nots" of the North and South Americas, I considered this another reason to leave.
After all the years, I came to realize that diversity isn't necessarily a notable characteristic of the most expensive place in the free world to live and ski. I needed a change and someone once said to me, "change is good unless you rather let sleeping dogs lie, in which case you keep Pandora's box closed and never wake the flower that blooms in you," or some such thing.
So I became a Denver resident once again and have asked myself recently, "What happened to my town?
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Moving back, I expected a wee bit more traffic, a "little" extra heat on those sunny days and a varied culture involving all sorts of humans from diverse upbringings. Multiply those three things by 10 and that's what I got.
Coming from a place where rush hour involved only five cars in the roundabout, I am overwhelmed at the traffic situation in this place. Drivers are aggressive, mean, unreasonable and completely devoid of the rules of engagement. Anything goes and you better just get out of the way. If you feel kind and empathetic toward others, then forget it. Kindness and empathy doesn't cut it here (whether you're sincere about it or not).
Yes, the drivers here are mean and they mean it. The middle finger appears an average of three times in a five-mile ride — sometimes, from the same person you pull up to at the next red light. Therefore, it is conceivable to be flipped off up to 15 times in a 25-mile commute which takes two hours when traffic is "normal." (That, people, will take its toll on you.)
Sixty-three percent of the aggression involves the female gender, and I had an exchange with a young lady just the other day. I motioned for her to roll the window down at the next light. She did and I said, "Where you from?"
She hesitated and said, "Here, old man. What's your problem?"
"You're not from here," I politely explained. "People from Colorado are nice, and you're not nice. Don't honk at me because I blinked and the light turned green. Have a little patience".
I want to believe it had an impact on her, but I know better. She sped off and I noticed the Cubs license plate border on her car.
All of this occurring when it's 103 degrees at 4:30 in the afternoon and we still haven't reached the high for the day.
Did I mention she was not in very good physical condition due to a few extra pounds, had hair color that did not evolve genetically, ear and nose piercings and an inordinate amount of tattoos. More shocking, these free spirits are commonplace here and, quite possibly, the swing vote that puts what's her face in office this November.
When I resided in what now seems like a far away land I would say, "Living the dream," to anyone that asked. My family, friends and an overwhelming amount of things to see and do in Denver make it far from a nightmare. I do wish, however, there was a little more vanilla in this town.
I guess in short hind-sight, there were nine reasons to leave and nine reasons to stay. To be continued …
Greg Ziccardi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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