Tuesday, June 14, 2005

First Gathering Newbie Survival Tips

by Lock Wench of NY

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1) Read the directions carefully in the event listing. A new boxing friend confided to me that the reason she ended up 3 hours late was she was at the OPPOSITE end of the lake!

2) Speak up when you first approach the group of people. "Is this the letterbox gathering?" This is how you will avoid what I did....I chatted up a group of people about the weather and the beautiful location before I realized I was in the local Singles group gathering. *grin* Got some phone numbers though. LOL

3) If there is no sign or LB marked balloons...look for telltale signs of letterboxers in the area...unusually large amount of Tupperware or ziplock bags without food in them, ink-stained fingers, or everyone at tables hunched over journals.

4) Bring hot food on a hot day or cold food on a cold day. You will be the only one to do so and so you will stand out. (I brought Indian curried meatballs on a 98 degree day!)

5) Find your voice. ASK ASK ASK The people I met were so generous. I sat in the midst of a group of people making small talk...all of whom seemed to know each other. During a lull in the conversation, I cheerfully asked... "Anyone want to make an exchange?" They all turned to me and loudly said "YES!" It was like being the first one to cut into a beautifully made dessert. Everyone wants to do it..but no one wanted to be the first. LOL Once the dam was broken, it was a free for all. Everyone started heading to tables and pulling out ink and stamps....

6) See #5. "Anyone want to go boxing?" "Anyone want to go swimming?" "Anyone want to share their inkpad?" "Any one know how to find Lock-n-Lock locally?" You get the idea...

7) Only drink from a bottle with a cap or other such container. NO OPEN CUPS! I watched with horror as someone knocked an open cup over right next to someone's handmade journal with multiple stamps. Only quick reflexes avoided a complete disaster.

8) Help clean up. Pick up loose cups...dirty paper plates..wipe up spills. It's just like being the ultimate houseguest. People will notice, appreciate you, and invite you to more gatherings.

9) Don't be afraid to pick their brains. Most of the seasoned veterans were more than happy to share tips in stamp carving, location hunting and box design. I had a particularly complicated box I am working on and I received many suggestions on how to make it better. And some asked me to contact them when I got it installed so that they could check it out!

10) Don't forget to share your stamps with children. Letterboxing kids were enthusiastic and happy to share their stamps. Completely accepting and generous with their time..just like their proud parents!

11) Bring a camera. Take pictures of everyone and note their names. Sharing pictures later with others who are trying to put faces to trailnames will be appreciated.

12) Think about stamping your signature stamp onto white peel-off stickers. For large gatherings, this made it much easier to get a lot of stamps from many boxers.

13) Look around. Each of these people was a newbie at one time. Some not that long ago either. Remember just as these people have their level of expertise in letterboxing, you have a level of expertise in something as well. Think... How do you treat newbies in your OWN field of expertise? With kindness, of course. So you already know what to do and what to expect.

14) Avoid flaming at all costs. Just as flaming should not be allowed on boards...badmouthing of fellow boxers should not be allowed at events either. If you encounter a rare incidence of mean spirited talk...don't join in. Be classy and stay above all of that.

15) If you still don't feel prepared...go to http://www.atlasquest.com/ and peruse the glossary. You will feel much more at ease if you feel familiar with some of the lingo.

16) SHARE. Maps, ink, babywipes, ice water...you name it. Be generous.

17) If you do join boxers on the local trails..bring a trashbag and pick up trash as you go. Respecting the home turf will win you big points.

18) Be able to laugh at yourself. If you walk into the midst of the poison ivy, step in goose poop or trip on a curb ( all which I did at my first gathering! lol), be able to laugh at yourself. Everyone loves a person who is comfortable with themselves. It makes them more fun to be around!