The Poster Vidge
A guide to Tofino bulletin boards…
by greg blanchard, Tofino
When the Jammer starts trembling like that, it puts you in mind of something small but nuclear, about to go critical. Babs backed away, out of the blast zone, which looked like it might take out most of the Tofitian cafe's front wall.
"&%@#!" the Jammer shouted, smacking the notice board. "I just put this &%@# poster up twenty minutes ago and somebody's already covered it up!" In a fury she unpinned the offending poster and stabbed herself in the thumb. "&%@#!," she said again -- it was her trademark expletive.
Several posters were flapping in the breeze by the time Babs moved in to help contain the damage. "'S all right," she said, soothingly. "Somebody's just selling off some end tables...."
"Why'd they have to put it right over my poster?" the Jammer said. "Like my stuff isn't important?" She pinned her own poster, a big, colourful event announcement, into the clearing she'd made on the board.
"End tables or six-piece bands," Babs said, "the poster's gotta go up somewhere." Today she was just tagging along, and it didn't make any difference to her.
"Not on top of mine, it won't," the Jammer said. Between the two of them they got the rest of the posters rearranged in more or less non-overlapping fashion.
"Why would anybody use a whole sheet of paper for some lousy end tables, anyway?" the Jammer wondered. "A post-it note would do." Babs lured her into the cafe with the promise of an espresso to calm her nerves -- the Jammer was weird that way.
After they got their bevvies the conversation took a philosophical turn. "It's the tragedy of the commons, what it is," Babs said, sipping at her chai latte with a connoisseur's pucker. "The notice boards are public property; they belong to everybody. Not the physical board, of course, that's got an owner. But the space on it is kind of donated to the community for whatever's important to-"
"Yeah, yeah ... belongs to everybody so it belongs to nobody," the Jammer said. "Like the air, like the wild salmon, like the run-down, ad-infested public space in every city and town." She took off her cateye glasses and rubbed her eyes. "No caretakers, no rules. Total free-for-all, people abuse it, pretty soon you got...." She waved her hand around, invoking, presumably, every bulletin board in the civilized world.
And they knew bulletin boards, they did; knew every board in town, intimately, from years of postering. All of them veritable explosions of dog-eared, overlapping sheets of paper jostling for space in a chaotic, shifting tableau of human want and need. Some ads chockablock with lists of whole households for sale, some going minimalist, a whole sheet to list one item and a phone number.
Some hand-illustrated in a bid for attention, others opting for giant font size or fluorescent paper to stand out. Some carrying pictures, especially the ever-present vehicle ads (trademark of a transient town) for assorted transpo from bike to moped to motor home -- the bigger the ad, generally, the crappier the vehicle.
Used surfboards often in evidence, also the offer of assorted services from babysitting to dog walking to butchering game. And always the frantic cries for accommodation from those facing a tent in the bush, Poole's Land or worse. Even, on occasion, a lonely, battered room for rent ad.
There's at least half a dozen of them in town. There's the Co-op Hardware board -- the mothership, lone beacon of order because it's cleared off completely every Monday morning, thus avoiding the many-layered stratification that turns other boards into something of an archaeological dig. Co-op board notices appeal to the masses: from big, flashy, four-colour Legion music night posters down to the crude, hand-lettered "Firewood 4 Sale" signs. You'll find mini-resumes from model citizens with impeccable references seeking housing, alongside wordy, earnest requests for participation in or donation of something odd, all spiced with a selection of brochures and business cards tacked up as low-budget advertising for shoestring enterprises.
Mermaid Tales' board is more eclectic. Framed in driftwood, it has a civilized air, as befits a bookstore, and speaks to the literati -- cultural events, readings, and accommodation-wanted ads from those who hope to share with quiet housemates.
The shaggy Common Loaf board always looks like someone rolled 150 notices into a ball, stuffed them into a cannon and fired them at the wall. It's plastered with brochures, stern environmental warnings, recreational-equipment ads, anything hand-drawn in colour, and what you could loosely call open letters to the community. It's the town's hippie/surfer notice board, you could say, but you could also call it the only board in town that exudes love. In fact it can barely contain all the love -- the notices are always overflowing onto the pillars and walls alongside.
Down the road a piece, two notice boards in the Live to Surf compound cater to the Tofino fringe element. Beaches' default common space is its front door, plastered with weatherbeaten, heroically scotch-taped, consciousness-raising notices that align nicely with the organic food within.
Across the gravel is its opposite, the plush, sheltered acreage of Tofitian's board, more or less the arts-and-culture board in town, sporting live music ads, fringe restaurant menus, announcements of art shows and yoga classes.
Then there are the secret boards, known only to the hard-core posterers in town: the Laundromat board, which only ever seems to gather roommate ads, or ads posted by roommates for places where they work. And the board just inside the door of Hungry Bear --
"Huh! Is there even a corkboard on that one?" the Jammer said, finishing up the last of her espresso, much improved in mood. "If there is I've never seen it. It's always plastered edge-to-edge with notices; for all I know they're all nailed to the wall."
"It's a corkboard," Babs said. "And like all the rest, a complete free-for-all: the perfect capitalist system in operation."
"And like the rest of the capitalist system, operating so well the ads all eat each other alive. Don't we need a bit of a governmental oversight here, to keep it working for everybody?"
"It does work for everybody. Sort of."
"Not when your poster gets covered twenty &%@# minutes after you pin it up," the Jammer said, getting pissed off again. "End tables... I can't believe it. Who do they think they are, anyway? Somebody should take some responsibility...."
She tapped on the counter, thinking for a minute. Then she put her glasses back on, pushed them firmly up her nose and looked across at Babs. The Jammer's eyes looked huge in the lenses. "And that's just what I'm gonna do," she said. "From now on, I'm taking ownership of this town's bulletin boards. I'm gonna be...."
"The Poster Nazi?" Babs suggested.
"Yeah, that has a good edge," the Jammer said, "but the image is all wrong. I want to set people free, not enslave them."
Babs took a last pull on her latte. "Okay," she said, "how about the Poster Police?"
Yeah," the Jammer said. "The Poster Police, I... Wait a sec, the cops' social mandate is to uphold the status quo. I want to change it. No, I'll be ... the Poster Vigilante! Work stealthily, like. Strike by night. Never see me coming." Her eyes were bright as she chugged the rest of her espresso. "If you've got just one item for sale, all you get is ..." -- she drew a little rectangle in the air -- "an index card. Any bigger than that..." She did the scissors thing with her fingers.
"The Poster Vigilante," Babs said. "The Poster Vidge. Cool. You realize, of course, that if people catch you messing with their ads they'll string you up. There's also probably some sort of free speech statute you'd be breaking, not that you'd get anything like a fair trial. You know how this town is. Look at how freaked you got when your poster was covered up."
"They're not gonna catch me," the Jammer said, warming to the idea. "The Poster Vidge. I tell ya, Babs, change is a-coming to this town."
"I'm warning you now,"Babs said. "It's going to end in tears."
Wet Coaster greg blanchette still cares about the little things, despite all indications of the foolishness of doing so. He can be set straight at email@example.com.
The Poster Vidge is a story by greg blanchette, that also serves as a guide to Tofino bulletin boards.