Written By: Dominic Tartaglia
We live in an age of advanced technology and high speed Internet where within minutes of a question at dinner Google will have provided an answer to someone at the table. Personally, I think the advantages of the technological developments like my iPhone are a great way to be more productive and to be prepared for a wide variety of situations at any given moment. If we think about how useful an iPhone is we can come up with a laundry list of uses that would likely include a communication device, word processor, camera, encyclopedia, reading device and the list goes on. What many people would probably not want to admit is that our phones also are contributing to a lack of attention to the little stories that make daily life more adventurous and less mundane. I’m not saying that technology and readily available information is boring but that it distracts us from the nuances of reality that have inspired humans for thousands of years.
On any given lunch break I can look around and see an endless field of people staring at their hands while eating lunch or walking down the street. People rushing out of the parking structure’s top floor and staring at their screens may not know that right next to them is a pile of pennies stacked haphazardly on a ledge of the Masonic Lodge as seen in the photo to the right. I discovered that little stack of change one day while walking back from a lunch meeting and I just happened to look over at the ledge of the building to notice that every level surface along the Marsh Street Parking Structure has change scattered on it. Each coin is like a longstanding trophy for a pedestrian who skillfully guided their nickel or dime across the gap of the two buildings where it came to rest out of the eye of the casual passerby. The not so successful coins plummet down to the street and face less certain demise than resting on the ledge. Perhaps they go toward a child’s piggy bank or into the “Make Change Count” meters.
Regardless, the fact of the matter is that on this one little corner there is a story of a person who observed something interesting in the urban landscape and took it from an ordinary architectural feature into a game. What’s even more interesting to me is that other people took notice of this game and started throwing their change at the ledge and it leaves me asking the question of, “How many people have seen this and how many other hidden little adventures are there Downtown?” I can only imagine that many of us are stuck in the mindset of getting from our parking spot (bicycle or car) to our destination and we walk past dozens of these stories around Downtown. In the midst of our urban environment of Downtown San Luis Obispo there must be hundreds of different occurrences where some sort of tribute is hidden in plain sight.
For the past couple of weeks I have set the challenge for myself to start tuning into Downtown and looking for those little nuances and secrets that I might not see if I wasn’t looking for them. What I have discovered is that beyond the occasional cache of coins or monument plaque, the most interesting things out there are the places where people have stashed an item with the purpose of being searchable but hidden. In my quest for more secrets of Downtown I checked in on Geocaching.com and took a quick look at our neighborhood and was amazed at how many people have actually hidden things around town and how many more actually searched for them. The game that is being played is somewhat of a hybrid of technology meets careful observation where people actually utilize the technology in their hands to navigate to an area and start looking at their surroundings to find a small item carefully hidden. The truly fascinating aspect of “geocaching” is that a lot of the locations are in historical landmarks and the original cachers oftentimes have included the history of the host structure or park and careful instructions to be wary of “muggles” so that the covert nature of the game remains intact and only people actively searching for the treasures are rewarded.
We have a lot of great opportunities to enrich our daily interaction with the seemingly routine environment in ways that make our Downtown a bit more adventurous. Whether we use some form of electronic device or we simply stumble upon a secret by dumb luck there are many opportunities to find adventure in our Downtown that can be a great way to break up the morning walk into the office. If you know of an interesting feature of Downtown that you would like to share with our community I welcome you to visit our Facebook page and drop us a comment with a description of your favorite cache. For those of you that don’t use the Internet please feel free to send us a letter to 1108 Garden Street Suite 210, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401 and we’ll share it for you. Of course in the effort to preserve the secrecy of any intentionally hidden caches we ask that you refrain from sharing those with the public and keep them secret for the rest of us to find.