Tofino's Clean Little Secret
by Greg Blanchette, Tofino
The pager squawked like a gull two minutes after I turned it on. I
sighed and gulped down the last of my morning muffin. It was a code
a-7, whatever that meant. They’re always changing the codes down
at dolt headquarters, just for something to do. Didn’t matter,
it was always the same thing. And it was my job.
This was a Level 3 call-in from Wildside. I pulled on the Docs, jumped
on the skateboard and slalomed down to the joint. The situation was
obvious soon as I tailslid onto the back deck.
Frank Island Frankie,
in a smart-looking sport shirt and fresh shorts, sat at a table having
coffee with a couple of tourists—maybe Montana, judging from
the hats and the fur trim on the jackets. “Heck no,” he
was saying. “Between the day job and the three committees I sit
on, I barely have time to—”
“Frankie!” I interrupted him, grinning big, and slapped
my hand on his shoulder. “How’s the surf these days?”
“I was just telling these folks how I hardly—”
The district of Tofino trains its dolt operatives well. I knew all
the pressure points in Frankie’s shoulder, and it took just a
slight twitch of one finger to bring him up short, wincing.
“— uh, yeah,” he continued, comprehension dawning
in his eyes. “How I hardly bother to, uh, come ashore anymore.” He
shook the cobwebs out. “Yep, I pretty much live out on the
old longboard, dude,” he said, warming to the task.
Frankie winked at me and I could see he’d got his grip back. “Righteous!” I
said, and murmured into his ear, “Hey, what’s with the
As I turned away, he dumped a third of his iced cappuccino down the
front of his shirt, hooted, and launched into a story about blowing
off a five-figure government contract in the big city so he could sit
on Chesterman Beach weaving hemp jockstraps. Montana was duly impressed.
Another crisis averted.
Behind the counter, Sara nodded and passed me a double shot to go — one
of the perks of the job. “Thanks for the call-in,” I said,
and skated out the door.
I could see it was gonna be a busy day. Always is, for a dolt fieldman
in the spring, with the locals all goofy from the sunshine and the
buzz of new life around town. They get sloppy, let their guard down.
Many need to be reminded that Tofino’s a laid-back, surfin’ and
smokin’ community without a care in the world. Or at least that
it’s gotta look that way.
That’s what the Department Of Long Time does: maintains what
you might call “the illusion.” Except it’s no game
for us — we know what side our bread’s buttered on. Never
mind that no local ever has five minutes to spare, what with all the
volunteering, meetings, politics, and working three crappy jobs just
to keep a leaking roof overhead. We got city folks coming out here
with expectations, and by Jah those expectations better be met.
As a town, we work hard at it. Our mandatory winter classes in high-speed
sauntering, that make us seem to be loafing along as we race to our
next appointment. Our stealth committee drills, so our meetings all
look like we’re sitting around getting stoned. The computer-in-a-kayak,
the flip-flop cell phone, the surfboard fax-o-matic… all standard
Yeah, visitors look at that quaint little district office and they
think, “Ahh, the simple life.” What they don’t see
is two sub-basement floors containing the dolt offices, jammed with
blinking lights, twitching dispatchers and crackling radio links.
Jah help us if the tourists ever get wind of that. They come out here
for the relaxation, the release. Like it says right on the cover of
this magazine: Half the speed — twice the pleasure! What they
don’t see is the asterisk with the disclaimer in really tiny
print: “Does not apply to locals.”
What’d happen to our reputation if word got out that our surfer
freaks work 60-hour weeks running a dot-com, even as they straddle
their boards in the Cox Bay break? Who’d make the drive to the
coast if they knew the Tla-o-qui-aht direct a multinational conglomerate
from the benches on Co-op corner? Nope, if it weren’t for a quarter
of the town working undercover for dolt, the whole “laid-back
village” sham’d fall apart faster than Disneyland without
the fairy dust.
My pager (disguised, of course, as an iPod) chirps like a sparrow
on espresso all morning: oyster farmers talking shop on the street,
boutique staff caught glancing at their watches, two locals hashing
out a progress report in the Co-op line-up. A town councillor, fer
loud, ranting about vacation rentals at the Post Office. By lunchtime
my skateboard wheels are smoking.
Four days into a six-day shift and I feel like I’m halfway to
burnout junction. Not good, this early in the year. That storm-watching
ruse is really stretching the season, wearing down dolt and everyone
who’s part of it.
Already I’m dreaming about my days off. Maybe head south to
Ucluelet for a while, walk the trail, pretend I’m a tourist.
Try getting into the relaxation thing. Nobody in Ukee has five minutes
to spare either, but Pan-Ucluelet Community Kronos Retardation does
a crack job. I might come close to forgetting the hang-loose vibe’s
fully bogus there too, barely held together by the puckr squad.
Yeah, “Tofino time”… ripper idea. Can’t last
forever, but for now it’s our clean little West Coast secret.
Whoops, there goes the pager. Okay, for any locals reading, this is
a dolt directive: Coffee break’s over – put down the magazine
and get back to work. Everybody else… chill out!
Greg Blanchette has busted his ass on the West Coast for six years,
dreaming vainly of a month off in Vancouver to decompress.
Tofino writer Greg Blanchette explains Tofino's 'clean little secret' in this satiric story from May 2005 in Tofino Time magazine.