The library is the most well known venue in any community for learning something. You go there, pull a book off the shelf, sit down and start learning. I suppose sitting at one’s desk or at home cruising the Internet, Wikipedia, or Googling also qualifies. But for the person who is open to it, you can learn something new just about anywhere -- even in the back parking lot of a medical office building.
Ever since acquiring the building in which I practice medicine the back parking lot has developed something of a history and character in and of itself. The interior of the building for sure has an interesting history in that the building at one time was the home of three different restaurants: Sirloin Stockade steak house, Cerami’s Italian restaurant, and the a Bar-B-Cue restaurant and bar. And each business had its own particular reason for ceasing
business operations, consolidation, embezzlement, and mismanagement being the main ones.
The back parking lot though lends itself for a little seclusion of sorts as it is surrounded by houses and a bank and shopping center parking lot with stores nearby. It’s always been and continues to be a favorite meeting or resting spot for transients and the apparent homeless. Learning the behavior of transients, with or without backpacks, has been interesting over the years. Most of them are not so much trouble makers as much as they are litterbugs. Their trash includes but has not been limited to beer cans, snack wrappers, liquor bottles, potato chip bags, small paper and plastic bags, and surprisingly, purchase receipts. I should have considered it an omen that this was a coming problem when one day I pulled into my back entrance parking space, the first day after renovations were completed after an extended vacancy, and
upon stepping out of my truck looked down to see lying on the asphalt two condoms, used of course, presumably on different nights. But ever since we reestablished the outdoor lighting the number of condom encounters fortunately has been limited to three. This was over 20 years ago.
Some transients have approached the employees of the nearby businesses, bank tellers and staff, asking for money and being somewhat intimidating. Because of this, the police department was notified and now check on things in the area. Apparently word has gotten around the hobo community of the visible presence of the law in this area and they’ve not been at least the intimidating problem they once were.
One morning last week I pulled around the building to park at my back entrance there was a small black pick up truck, old and dented, occupied by two young men, parked close nearby. They were dressed in shabby looking denims, with well-worn jackets, and their haircuts were cut close, skinhead-style. After putting my things inside I approached the truck, seeing the bed had almost half as much trash in it as a dumpster.
“Can I help y’all? Is there a problem?,” I asked. They looked to be in their early 20s but their baby faces could have passed them for 18 or younger. “Oh, no sir,” the driver shot back, obviously bright eyed and bushy tailed. “We’re just sitting here playing a game.” “A game?” I asked. “Yes, sir. It’s called geocaching.” Stepping out of his truck he continued, very animated, “What we do is use our GPS devices to find an item that’s been hidden by someone else and what you do is you drive around following your GPS clues and coordinates and this puts you within about 100 feet of the hidden item.” His face lit up, apparently overjoyed that someone new might be interested in hearing about his new found passion and diversion. Holding up a tiny one-inch black cylinder he said, “Here, this is what we just found. Let me show you where it was hidden.”
We walked about 12 feet to a nearby light pole and pointing to a gray metal box containing wires and whatever, he flashed the tiny cylinder again and said, “This is where we found this one,” and reaching under the box returned the just found item back under the small metal box, totally out of view, held in place by a tiny magnet inside the cylinder. “The GPS puts you within about 100 feet or so of the hidden item and then it’s up to you to try to think like the one who hid it to find the exact location.” His friend, still in the truck with black-rimmed glasses, looked on.
“So what do you do when you find this thing?” I asked. He said you simply put it back and then record it as one of your found items and then you share your experience online at the geocaching website.
I told him it sounded like it was really an adult game of Hide-and-Seek. He agreed. Walking back to the truck I asked him where they were from. He hailed from Sylacauga, Alabama and his buddy piped in that he was from Washington State. He volunteered that they were E1 airmen stationed at Keesler Air Force Base. I joked with him about the obvious observation. “I thought you guys were supposed to be defending our country from terrorists but instead y’all are playing hide and seek.” They both laughed, and the driver said, “Well, yeah, but we get bored too!” Too? I wondered if he meant of the many states of mind
he experienced as a man in uniform that boredom was one of them, or was he being presumptive in thinking that I too got bored, presumably on the same level as when I was nine years old.
At any rate, after work later that day curiosity got the best of me and I looked up this thing called geocaching which can be found at their website: www.geocaching.com. It’s interesting, and free, and if you’re looking for something new to do, if you don’t already have enough, either on your own, with a partner, or even with the family, you may want to check it out.
In this day and age, if you ever think you know everything, which I’ve never thought since the age of 17, or think you know all that you need to know, then think twice. You can always learn something new – even in the back parking lot of medical office building – with or without outside security lights.