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Why Do Road Tramps Talk Shop So Much?

I go back and forth when using quotes from classic books, that is, I give an anecdote from my own life that seems to illustrate the principle described in the quote. Perhaps some readers would prefer that I just give a juicy, classic quote, without watering it down with my own stuff. Hopefully it adds 'value' to intercalate my own experiences with the quote.

Recall George Orwell's "The Spike", 1931, written about his experience in homeless shelters with smelly bums:
There was nothing to talk about except the petty gossip of the road, the good and bad spikes, the charitable and uncharitable counties, the iniquities of the police and the Salvation Army. Tramps hardly ever get away from these subjects; they talk, as it were, nothing but shop. They have nothing worthy to be called conversation, bemused emptiness of belly leaves no speculation in their souls. The world is too much with them. Their next meal is never quite secure, and so they cannot think of anything except the next meal.
It brought a wry smile to my face to think of Orwell's thoughts as I camp near Quartzsite, at this time of year. This must be the limiting case of "tramps" talking shop, even if they are bourgeois tramps, instead of the smelly kind that Orwell was writing about.

If you look for it, you could probably find an affinity group for people who own, say, the 'Bloat-box' brand of RVs. They are all convinced that their rig is unique because the color scheme uses a certain shade of blue-gray that swoops downward -- instead of upward -- towards the front of the rig. You would not make a new friend if you pointed out that 'Bloat Box' uses the same top-tier suppliers as the rest of the industry, that is, Ford, Atwood, Norcold, Dometic, etc. 

The existence of these affinity groups is a testament to human nature: people can't relate to hordes of people. They want a community, a tribe, of manageable size. And it has to be based on some sort of commonality. Let's be optimistic and hope that there are better ways to find your tribe, someday.

Still, why all the shop talk? RVers aren't living on the edge, as Orwell's tramps were. They are wallowing in modern comforts. And yet they act like they are just hanging in there.

Is it because the RV industry pulls in such ultra-bourgeois people, so obsessed with their comforts and status symbols, and so timid and indoorsy, that they are fool enough to think they are having an "adventure," instead of merely pissing away their children's inheritance?


  1. It sounds just like the self righteous "campers" who wont go anywhere but a state park because they HAVE to have a campfire, and cook everything outdoors even though they are using frying pans with lids to cook everything. I actually don't understand how they can watch their outdoor TV with the campfire refle ting off the screen.
    Me? I've got a 17 year old RV with 2 TVs, internet and satellite TV. Recliners, full shower and every comfort I can think of. It's not pretty but in good condition. I can park in a parking lot, explore the city I'm in and take in a movie. I can come home at night watch TV and bake something for supper.
    The best part is I have to get up and look out the window to see where I am at in the morning because sometimes I'm not sure.
    I'm not a camper or RVer or some vagabond on a great adventure.
    I'm just someone who is lucky enough to be in a house that moves whenever I want it to.

  2. I think that anecdotes from your own life do add 'value' to the quotes. Leave the juicy quotes for me, I use them to say what I don't have the ability to put into writing.

    I don't know about that wanting a community; this quote describes me!

    I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member. - Groucho Marx


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