I went to my first-ever club meeting of geocachers at our local buffet-style restaurant and was awed and amazed. This monthly meeting was for like-minded hobbyists from several surrounding counties and it was easy to see that they were a warm, welcoming bunch of people who share a common interest.
Unfortunately, that common interest is complete and total nerdhood.
If you don’t already know, geocaching is actually this very cool outdoorsy activity in which you use a GPS device and global coordinates to locate tiny little boxes that have been hidden by fellow geocachers. There are literally over a million of these little boxes spread around the world. It’s like hide-and-seek for people who have no friends willing to come look for them when they hide.
Sometimes, the hidden boxes contain really amazing things like keys to a brand-new Jeep vehicle. Usually they just contain a piece of paper for you to sign as written proof that you have no life. Bring your own pen.
According to The Idiot’s Guide to Geocaching, which is a galactically redundant title, there is an amazing history to the sport (I’m sorry, many geocachers want to see this activity turned into an Olympic event, so I’m required as a member of the brethren to refer to it as a sport). It actually started just over ten years ago as a conspiracy theorist’s drinking game:
“Hey, Bob, you know how NASA has all these satellites all around the world and the government is using them to take pictures of our DNA?” (slurp)
“No, they can’t really do that, Dave.” (slurp)
“Sure they can, Bob. It’s what they do. They’re videotaping us right now. Those satellites can see through walls and zoom in so far they can see the hairs in your nose.” (slurp)
“Why would they do that? The government’s too busy trying to find Osama Bin Laden to care how long my nose hairs are. ‘Sides, they can’t see through walls.” (slurp)
“They just want to know where you are at all times. Forget the census bureau, they don’t even need them people anymore. They can count us from the satellite pictures.” (slurp)
“I don’t think so, Dave. I think you’ve been reading stuff on the Internet again.” (slurp)
“I’ll prove it. I’m going to go hide this beer somewhere in a national forest. Then I’m going to come back and tell you just the coordinates, and if you can find it without using any technology I will give up my subscription to Roswell Weekly. If you can’t find it, you owe me a cold one.” (siiiiiiiiiiip)
“You’re on, Dave.” (sluuuuuurrrrrrp)
And so the sport of geocaching was born. I have to admit, it is kind of a fun thing to do on a weekend hike or a camping trip. My family loves to go camping and just sitting in the woods throwing rocks at trees gets old after that fourth rock. Geocaching gives us something to do while we’re out in nature. I’ve also stopped in at parking lots on my way home because I happen to have read that there’s a microscopic container hidden in a light pole somewhere on the property. I’ve taken picnic outings with the kiddies to a scenic overlook because I got an email update that a new container had been hidden in some pine tree within a 500 yard radius of that spot.
But I don’t hold a 300-candle power headlamp to these people at the buffet. First of all, we were required to sign in with a our caching team names, so we all had on stickers that said things like, ‘Hello, My Name is Sledgehampster.” We walked around the room (the term is mingling to us non-socially inept people) and recognized one another by our team names, swapping stories about being caught by muggles (people who think we’re idiots) while hunting for an elusive find (plastic Rubbermade container filled with Happy Meal toys).
After we had all helped ourselves to the cholesterol buffet, the meeting got down to business. We had a riveting guest speaker on the importance of checking your flashlight occasionally to make sure the batteries work, we had a roll call of new caches that had been hidden in the last week, commemorative gold spray painted ammo cans were distributed to those in attendance who had reached 1000 lifetime finds, then the drawing for door prizes took place before we adjourned.
If that restaurant meeting room had erupted in flames at any point during the night, trapping us all inside and leaving us in ashes, the cool factor of the human race would have gone up by four percent instantly. Sorry, the truth hurts.
And I am not ashamed. I have learned to embrace my inner social outcast because nerds tend to be much more interesting people in the long run. I have attended Star Trek conventions, driven for hours to visit the Cast Iron Cookware Museum, and waited in line overnight for tickets to the Tron movie (the first one, folks, not the mass-appeal 3D one). There’s nothing wrong with quirky interests between consenting adults as long as no one gets hurt. Like the really gorgeous young lady that three acne-inflicted nerds paid to accompany them to the Las Vega Hilton’s Star Trek themed casino. I admit it, she was in hell.
So whenever you’re ready to get off your high-horse and embrace the less popular crowd, just say the word. I’ll strap on my hip waders, fire up the GPS, and hide a beer in the woods for you.
NOTE: if you are at all interested in drinking the kool-aid and becoming one of us, go to http://www.geocaching.com. I swear this isn’t made up.