Opinion » Maxed Out

maxed Out

Too much of a good thing



Hear that? Listen more closely. Now do you hear it? That, my friends, is the sound of summer slammin’ shut. By the merciful intervention of another school year, this town’s about ready to go into sleep mode for the fleeting weeks between now and ski season. It’s time to reclaim the trails and lakes from the ever-expanding hordes of map-clutching, screamin’ kid toting, boulevard strollin’, goldcard flashin’ tourists and enjoy them in their fleeting solitude. The jugglers and clowns have packed up their false noses and flaming torches and we can once more enjoy an uncrowded patio, a refreshing beverage and peace of mind knowing the Fashion Policelady won’t be coming by spraying us with glitter, rouging our cheeks and making gratuitously defamatory comments about our "so called" wardrobe.

Apologies to all those who make their killing, er, living off the seasonal invasion, but good riddance.

Now before y’all start writing outraged letters to Mr. Barnett about what an ungrateful, short-sighted thing that is for me to write, don’t bother. He already knows I’m ungrateful and short-sighted. It’s part of his own bargain with the Devil, one of an uncountable number of compromises necessary to put out a paper each week. Besides, in your hearts you know I’m right.

I’m not unaware of the debt we all owe – myself included – to the many funseekers who choose to spend time and money in Whistler. Bless each and every one of them. Individually I’m sure they’re all salt-o-the-earth people, except for the loser hoodlums who come up from the Lower Mainland for a punch-up and a drag race down the Killer Highway.

But in the same way a single sliver in your finger or a single pebble in your shoe won’t slow you down, a couple of dozen of each can become unbearable. Left alone long enough they’ll fester and aggravate your tender flesh until infectious gangrene sets in and the next thing you know you’re selling pencils from a kneeboard with a sign around your neck that says, "God bless you for your generosity." Of course, you’d have to move first since someone from Bylaw would come by and boot your crippled ass out of town if you tried that around here.

With the disappearing shoulder seasons and year-round fun being dreamed up by the marketing wizards of Whistler-Blackcomb and Tourism Whistler, we just don’t get the respite we used to get from the gawking visitors. And let’s be absolutely clear about one thing: not all tourists are created equal.

I love winter tourists. Winter tourists know what they’ve come to Whistler for. They’re single-minded in their pursuit of fast times, awesome natural features and wild thrills. Most of them also ski or board after having flushed half their braincells down the stall of one of our many nightlife hot spots.

There’s a camaraderie among winter visitors, a shared passion that bridges the often gaping chasms of language, age, social class, and physical abilities that would, in any other setting, divide them if not cause outright warfare to break out between them. Mind you, there continues to be a growing animosity between skiers and boarders that defies resolution and will, most likely, one day lead to slide-by polings or worse, but where would we be without some perceived slight to hang our "them and us" dichotomous disposition on?

Summer tourists are a whole different animal though. While winter tourists generally sift themselves through a simple screen of warm holiday or cold holiday, summer tourists are torn every which way by offerings as diverse as a cultural sojourn to Europe or staying in their own backyard and sipping beer while sprawled in the kid’s plastic pool, shooing away flies and mosquitoes. Faced with choices as broad as these, it’s a wonder any of them ever decide to come to Whistler.

But come they do, in sheer numbers, far more of them than in winter. Some of them come to ride bikes, go sightseeing, raft a river, catch a fish, whack a golf ball, see a sight, hike a trail and clog a beach. All in the same day. At the same time. Without any real understanding of exactly where they need to go to do those things.

Which is why they seem to end up all over the place and in a constant state of confusion. Unlike winter visitors who have the overall decency to stay in the village built for their pleasure, summer tourists know no boundaries. They’re in our neighbourhoods, wandering our streets, even knocking on our doors wanting to know where Rainbow Park is. There are now at least several who are convinced it’s in Pemberton and, if they followed my directions precisely, ended up checking into the Pemho.

Regardless of what many of our summer visitors thought they came for though, most of them seem to have come to argue with their children. In public. The children oblige this unusual pastime by throwing temper tantrums, thus upping the ante. It must be a rite of summer. There is an uncomfortable familiarity to many of the scenes I’ve stumbled upon recently, a timelessness of old, familiar tragedies replayed throughout the ages.

"C’mon now. You’ve got to learn to ride a bike some day."

"I don’t want to ride a bike. I hate you."

"That’s enough out of you, Mister. Keep it up and I’ll give you something to really cry about."

"I hate you. I hate you."

Did he really say, "Keep it up and I’ll give you something to really cry about?" Did he hear himself say that and think, in the same moment the words were coming out of his mouth, "Hey, wait a minute. Isn’t that exactly what I promised myself I’d never say to my children?" All the while wondering whether that was him speaking or whether his father had temporarily inhabited his body.

Anyway, I’ve decided the only way I can possibly keep my sunny, helpful disposition – and hopefully my job – intact for the winter tourists is to get out of Dodge for the summers and hide away where far fewer visitors drift through. Recognizing the urgency of my need, my Perfect Partner bought a nice cottage on a nice lake in the nice Cariboo where I can while away my summers without once having to give anybody the wrong directions to a place I’d rather they didn’t go. She can be free to indulge her own pressing need to putter in a garden and Zippy the Dog can stay in the lake until his skin wrinkles, if that’s possible.

Thus begins the Kottage Khronicles.

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