Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Homeless Chic (Feral Humans, Part III)

Wouldn't it be nice to chuck it all and go back to nature?

A reader sends me links to "dumpster diving" videos.  Some of these are actual dumpster diving videos, where people jump into dumpsters and dig out trash - often scraps of food and whatnot - which is kind of gross.  Others are pure click-bait (act shocked) where a guy pulls a box out of a dumpster and then - cut to another scene - opens the box and finds a new Playstation 5 or a new iPhone X.   People in America are sure wasteful! Ha-yuk Ha-yuk Ha-yuk!

Sadly, some people think these videos are real or represent a feasible way of life.  There are another set of clickbait videos out there that glamorize converting an old U-haul truck or a phone company van, or a school bus or other end-of-life vehicle into a "tiny home!" and then "living off the grid" presumably diving into dumpsters for sustenance.

What's up with that?  Living in a vehicle and eating out of dumpsters - that used to be what we called "homelessness".   Today, it is seen as a desirable "alternative lifestyle."    Of course, it isn't.  It is just a click-bait fantasy.  Apparently a popular one, based on the number of videos we see about it.

People get tired of the daily grind of work.   Paying rent, paying a mortgage, paying for food, making car payments, insurance payments - it all is too much!  Wouldn't it be neat to "live off the land" and just travel like Stobe the Hobo, hoppin' a freight and lookin' for cheap warm beer and fried chickin'?

Well, Stobe got hit by a train, and while there is a romantic image of hobos riding the rails from the days of the depression, the reality of being an unwashed smelly bum living in a hobo camp, eatin' a can of beans cooked over a fire and getting stabbed by a fellow hobo for said beans, isn't all that glam.  In fact, it sucks.

But it is a popular trope, one that starts early in life.  Kids run away from home, thinking that living on the street, begging for money and getting high all day long is better than going to school and learning algebra.  The realities of street life - and the dangers - usually disabuse many of that fantasy fairly quickly, at least those who don't develop a massive drug habit and those that live long enough to figure it out.

But it doesn't end there.  A lot of young people get disillusioned in their 20's and 30's and fall into this sort of thinking - that converting a "Skoolie" into a "Tiny Home" is a plausible use of their time, and a smart career move.  For every one person who does this, there are 100 who fantasize about it.  Wouldn't it be cool to just chuck it all and drive away from your cares in your funky restored Airstream?

It is a nice fantasy.  But fantasies are never a good way to live.  The reality of living on the road is that it is very expensive, even if you buy secondhand school bus or van or whatever.  Just the cost of gas gets dicey - not to mention where to park.  You can't just camp out on the street or on "vacant" land, at least not for long.  Plus there is the whole "how are you going to make money?" part of the problem.

Which leads us back to the click-bait videos.   Everyone, it seems, has "wrapped" their Skoolie or motorhome or trailer with some sort of come-on.  We saw one in Maine - a three-axle Airstream with a "wrap" of their dashboard dog with the notation, "I'm Skippy!  Follow me and my owners as we Airstream across America!" - followed by their URL, Youtube address, Instagram, Facehbook, and so on.

Problem is, there are so many people doing this now that it is getting annoying.   Next one I see, I'm running them off the road.   But seriously, no, you can't make a living off YouTube clicks, unless you want to make it a full-time job.  And often these videos are chirpy and superficial and as annoying as "reality" television.   Reality television - why?  I saw one show the other day, about restoring "Barn finds" (which like dumpster finds are quite improbable and likely planted).   I would have liked to watch such a thing, but I am sure it is more about bitchy fights between the car restorers and of course the "reveal" shots, and not about the nuts-and-bolts aspect of it that a real car nut would want to watch.

But I digress.  But maybe not by much.

Restoring rusty old cars isn't all that interesting.  Click on a real video showing someone working on a car - it is an hour long and boring!  Which is why we want to click on the bitchy fights and the "before and after" reveal videos instead.  Sad commentary on human nature!

And it is why we click on videos that make impossible promises - that you can find treasure in a dumpster or can live on an old school bus for not a lot of money.

Yes, life is difficult, particularly when you are first starting out.  It seems like "everyone else" has so much and you have so little.  It seems like a viable option to "chuck it all" and "live off the grid".  But if you do that at an early age, it will be harder and harder to get back to normal life as you get older.  It could be a one-way trip to homelessness.

And homelessness is not noble or glamorous.  Nor should it be.