In 2009 only weeks after my husband had died I noticed a strange car sitting across from my house. It was an even distance between the two houses on the other side of the street so I wondered if someone was visiting either neighbor why they didn’t park closer or in the driveway of their host.
A day or so later I found a paper in my mailbox saying that a ‘geocache’ location was on my property and they’d visited and recorded the visit. A website was listed. Never having heard of ‘geocache’ I went directly to my computer.
On the site I found a report saying that the geocache location for the day had been located. Apparently these locations were set by random latitude/longitude coordinates and players were to locate them. There was an up-close photo of the corner of my garage. Now that felt erry! (This was before the days of everyone having a camera on their phone.)
The player reported that he or she had used GPS to locate the spot. It reported that the spot was apparently in my garage. They’d knocked on the door but no one answered so they took a photo as close to the ‘destination’ as possible and left. They posted my street address. More erry!
At a time in my life when I felt most vulnerable and insecure a game had randomly sent strangers to my home. And they’d posted a photo of my house and my address on a website. It was a bit unnerving.
I learned from the internet that ‘Geocaching’ is a game where players use navigational techniques to find locations that are randomly chosen. There is supposed to be a waterproof container at each site with a log book so players who find it can sign in and replace the container for others to locate. The site explained the rules for anyone finding a cache on private property. They were supposed to tell the owner about the game and ask permission to come on their private property and record their find. That still didn’t give me comfort knowing random people were being directed to my home.
I asked my friends who are always up to date on the latest crazes and trends and no one had ever heard of this game. I asked my geekiest friends and they hadn’t either. Just a typed note in my mail box and a site on the internet. Weird!
Fortunately, I didn’t have other players appear, while I was home anyway. I’d forgotten about this incident until today when I saw a photo on Facebook where a guy had posted a sign for Pokémon Go players to stay off his lawn.
You’ve heard of Pokémon Go, right?
This free smartphone ‘augmented reality’ game has apparently swept the country! It’s similar to geocaching except that it combines mystery locations with the ‘pocket monsters’ of the Pokémon Nintendo game that was popular years ago.
Articles about incidents that have happened because of playing this game, where people often move around while staring at their phones, are all over the internet. There have been reports of robbers targeting players who are alone. A guy fell off a cliff while playing, a woman found a dead body when the game took her to a remote area. A guy in Florida shot a couple of players as he thought they were prowling around his house at night.
Seeing the Facebook post today with the guy asking players to stay away made me wonder how many have come into his yard. Some articles tell of groups of people who just hang out at locations and talk with other players. I’m so glad geocaching wasn’t as popular when my house was a target. Lots of visitors coming and going could have driven an old widow woman over the edge!
If you aren’t playing, watch out for folks wondering around staring at their phones. If you are playing, be courteous and thoughtful of folks who didn’t ask to be part of this craziness!
“Hey, you kids, get off my lawn!”
NOTE: Myra McElhaney is a writer and speaker. Her memoir, Building A Life You Love After Losing the Love of Your Life was released in January 2016 and is available on Amazon.com and at MyraMcElhaney.com.