MOUNTAIN LIFE - Coast Mountains | Winter Spring 2017 - page 92

job at a dog kennel so we figured—with a splash of cautious optimism—
that the receipt of a paycheque was feasible within two weeks. This left
us, if we divided eighty-three by fourteen, with a per diem of five loons
and ninety-two cents. A share-sized pepperoni pizza from Little Caesar’s
cost $5.85, which left seven cents a day for whatever our hearts desired.
We parked out front of Walmart to access the freeWi-Fi, and since we also
frequently stayed there for the night, we listed that lot as our address
when we switched over to British Columbia driver’s licenses. With a life
divided almost exclusively betweenWalmart, work, and the walls of the
Stawamus Chief, we were, in the colourful parlance of the outdoors, a
couple of dirtbags.
Of course, “dirtbag” is less a species andmore a genus—an umbrella
termwhich describes a variety of different types of people who prioritize
experience over possessions and adventure over stability. For example,
during the spring, the dirtbag scene in the parking lot at the Stawamus
Chief can be subdivided into three different social strata.
At the top of the dirtbag pyramid (and the closest this world gets to an
aristocracy), are the Sprinter van dirtbags. Often, “Sprintocrats” hail from
outside the Sea to Sky Corridor, piloting vehicles with license plates from
far-off California or Colorado. In the sense then that the Sprinter dirtbags
are usually holidaymakers or professional athletes (and often both), they
tend to “eat cake,” so to speak, while lower tier dirtbags must use wit
and cunning in their search for daily bread.
The middle class dirtbag is in fact the only working class among dirtbags.
Typically, they are “local” in the sense that Squamish, Whistler or
Pemberton are the towns of residence listed on their driver’s licenses.
However, in the eyes of many well-settled, land-owning locals, the
inherent kinesis of the dirtbag sleeping quarters means that the middle
class dirtbag can only ever be considered a “drifter” or “freeloader,” terms
that come with a history of both social and political baggage.
It’s a misnomer of course, as mid-tier dirtbags generally occupy all of the
lowest-paying positions in the modern industrial economy. Operating lifts,
selling tickets, pouring drinks, manning checkouts and ferrying cartons
of hamburger meat up and down scenic gondolas, the granola dirtbag is
the oxygen-transporting hemoglobin of the Sea to Sky service economy,
without which there would be no French fries and nobody to hate on.
Tomake matters worse, a middle class dirtbag is also derided as a
“granola” by the lower dirtbag stratums for his or her ability to financially
access the more bourgeois of the cereal options. Much like middle classes
the world over, these working class dirtbags get all the loathing that
comes with privilege without actually being privileged.
The final class, and purest form of dirtbag, is the species a naturalist may
refer to as “homo dirtbag dirtbagius” but whom others may refer to as
“the lowest of the low.” These are dirtbags in their purest form, lifers who
typically reside beneath tarps and tents, and if a car is even owned at all,
it is rarely greater in size than a Honda Civic (and when it is, it’s a van.)
Usually male, and possessing a natural ability to endure suffering, these
dirtbags come frommany different backgrounds—young, old, Ontarian,
Australian and often Quebecois.
This lowest form of dirtbag, it must be said, does not work. But then,
as author George Orwell once quipped, “what, indeed, is work?” The
Sprintocrats work via high-speedWi-Fi connection, the granolas work by
serving beers to hedge-fundmanagers with goggle tans, and the true
dirtbags work to survive, bin-diving for the curd gristle on a discarded
plate of poutine or hoovering up the remnants of a half-eaten sandwich in
a day-lodge cafeteria—to keep the bears away, of course.
Thriftiness defines the dirtbag, but so doesmobility. He knows that twenty
dollars of gas will get him from Squamish toWhistler and back in his
beat-up gas-guzzler. But he also knows there is a very real possibility that
his vanmay never restart, which is problematic when the time comes for a
tactical exit in the wintry, pre-dawn of his illegal bivouac in Parking Lot 4.
Fringe-dwelling aside, the true dirtbag is a good enough fellow—cheery,
thrifty and appreciative, grateful even, of his mountain life.
Thegranoladirtbag is theoxygen-transporting
hemoglobinof theSea toSkyserviceeconomy,
withoutwhich therewouldbenoFrench fries
andnobody tohateon.
It's not the size thatmatters, it'swhat youdowith it. ERICASORENSEN
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