‘Ciao, ciao for now, now and be kind.’ Life lessons from an Aspen bus driver.

Updated: Dec 12, 2020


By SARA VANDEN BERGE


The Husband and I needed a break; a cheerful escape to a place where we could enjoy a change of scenery.


So we packed our bags and headed to Aspen last week where the mountain air would lift our spirits and heal our minds following a miserable bout with Covid-19.


It was just what the doctor ordered.


There are strict regulations in Aspen that include wearing a mask at all times (in every public space, even when walking outdoors) and only 25% capacity inside restaurants and retailers.


But overcrowding was the least of our concerns because the tourist town, which should have been booming with snow skiers and Christmas revelers, was eerily quiet.

The streets of Aspen were beautiful, but deserted.

We walked the downtown streets virtually alone at 5 p.m. on a Saturday night. Many popular restaurants were closed, but most disturbing, was the look of worry on the faces of those working in the service industry.


The first restaurant we stopped in for a celebratory lunch was The Red Onion. We were told that it was the oldest bar in Colorado (but that’s not a fact I independently verified).


As we ordered truffle fries and cocktails, our waiter informed us that The Red Onion was closing for good that night.


Covid, he said, had taken its toll.

The restaurants in Aspen are amazing and enjoying the great cuisine was one of our highlights.

THAT BUS DRIVER…


Even though there was a subdued vibe in Aspen, we had a great time.


We took long walks and enjoyed a John Denver tribute on one of the city’s most popular walking trails.

The John Denver tribute on a walking trail was super fun to see.

We read, dined at some amazing spots and even caught up on a couple of our favorite Christmas movies. We kept to ourselves and enjoyed every minute of it.


But still, we couldn’t escape the feeling of deep sadness.


Our thoughts were with the people in Aspen whose livelihoods have been so badly impacted by the pandemic, our friends back home who were worried about how new rollbacks would affect their businesses, and, of course, those battling the illness.


And I’d be lying if I said the fact that all three of our kids won’t make it home for Christmas this year wasn’t gnawing at my soul.

The Husband and I did lots and lots of walking in Aspen.

So imagine my surprise when a friendly bus driver reminded me that there is still plenty to be happy about.


The man with a voice like Jeff Spicolli drove us down from Snowmass to our hotel on Sunday.


He enthusiastically greeted each person who boarded the bus and asked how their day was going. Then he listened to their answer.


As we wound our way down the mountain, he pointed to landmarks and bragged about his family, even urging us to check out his son’s Instagram page (@muthafishin_jones).


His enthusiasm for his job – and life - was contagious.


“Thanks for your ridership,” he told each person that exited.


And when it was our turn, he looked at us and said, “Ciao, ciao for now, now. And be kind.”


“Ciao, ciao for now, now?”


It was the weirdest thing I’d ever heard.


We laughed about it all the way back to the hotel.


But that night while I tossed and turned and thought about all the craziness happening in the world, that silly phrase kept popping into my head.


“Ciao, ciao for now, now. And be kind.”


Maybe Spicolli was on to something. Maybe it’s time to take a deep breath and focus on being kind.


Maybe those words mean we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously and should give others a break.


Maybe we should say goodbye to strangers in a way that makes them feel like we hope to cross paths again.


Maybe “Ciao, ciao for now, now” isn’t so weird after all.


Maybe the guy who spends his days making people smile on vacation is the one who has it figured out.