Monday, August 31, 2009

Mob Mentality

It's 6:20am on Saturday morning, and my alarm begins to blare obnoxiously. It blasts a monotone, beep-beep-BEEP-BEEP, getting louder and louder until finally I am awake enough to realize that I have a decision to make.

I could turn the alarm off, close my eyes, and go back to sleep. There's enough time for three more hours without feeling like I've wasted any part of the day.

Or, I could get up, get dressed, and drive into Westboro so I can have breakfast at 7:00am with other members of the Saturday Morning Caching Club, which we colloquially refer to as the "geomob". Then, after breakfast, participate in finding the geocaches listed on this morning's agenda.

On this particular morning, I hear the drip-drip-drip of fresh rainfall splashing onto my roof and deck. And the morning's agenda, emailed to our mailing list the day before, is a run through the suburbs of Gatineau looking for a series of tiny matchstick containers tied to spruce trees. Too small to actually trade any items - just a log scroll to sign. And you have to bring your own pen. Did I mention it was raining?

And yet, somehow, by 7:00am, I find myself walking through the doors of "Moe's" Newport Restaurant, home of the Elvis Sighting Society.

Sometimes I ask myself just what the allure of all this is. Today, it's not going to be about the "thrill of the hunt" or "taking you to cool and unknown places". Some days it is. Trips to Gatineau Park are usually worth the torture of getting up early -- the reward is an invigorating hike through beautiful scenery. Other days we do go places I wouldn't venture to by myself. Previous geomob outings have taken me as far away as Rochester, NY and the Eastern Townships of Quebec. I've explored abandoned underground subway tunnels, cached through 50km of trails by bike (in one day!) and spent mornings picking up garbage along the shoulders of the expressway while 18-wheelers roar by.

One common geocaching creed is, "It's not about the numbers". That's either a lie or hopeful self-deception. No, we don't always compare ourselves to each other. We all go at our own pace. But we do all go. I've had a busy summer, and haven't had very many chances to turn on the GPS. Meanwhile, friends are discovering caches I haven't seen yet (wasn't that one a neat hide, isn't this a clever camouflage). I do feel like I want to "catch up". If anything, today is about the numbers. A dozen easy park-and-grabs will bring me that much closer to my next "milestone". I don't watch the Ottawa leaderboard, but this will bump me up a notch.

Ultimately, for me, it's about the people. I walk into Moe's and the waitress brings out my coffee without even asking. She addresses me by name and asks if I'll have my usual ("Kiss Me Quick" -- the yogurt and fruit platter). Anyone is welcome at breakfast, so there's often someone new to meet, and there's a core group of people who I've come to expect to regularly be there. We share stories, trade hints, make jokes. There's usually a crack about my unkempt hair. We finish eating, get into cars, and venture off.

By noon, I am soaking wet from the rain, but I hardly notice. I have 15 more cache finds to log when I get home, but I haven't been keeping count. What I am thinking, as we part ways and I drive off, is that I really should get to bed earlier on Friday nights.

I've missed this.

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