Tofino Time: Our 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 respectable wardrobe...?"
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 DOLT equipment.
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 cryin' out 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 several years, dreaming vainly of a month off in Vancouver to decompress.
Tofino Time: Greg Blanchette reveals the truth about Tofino Time in this tongue-in-cheek expose of the fictional 'Department of Long Time'