Saturday, December 23, 2006

Did You Catch Any Cooties?

Did You Catch Any Cooties?
Thanks to MamaRoots for hosting what turned out to be yet another fine Letterbox Gathering. Her idea of sharing Yule Logs (i.e. logbooks) in an informal social setting sparked the sharing not just of many stories and tales of letterbox adventures (thanks everyone), but also a few other surprises. While gathered around the couches and coffee tables of the Cherry Street Artisan, we were also treated to chocolates (thanks Mama Roots), baked goods (thanks, Grace to You), holiday stamps (thanks Mama Roots, Surly Mama, Ahistory and One Mean Green Bean), and sharing of personal travelers (names not revealed to protect the, um, innocent?)

Of courses, winter is also often the season of sharing colds and flus and other such diseases, and this Gathering was no exception. The disease that escaped into the letterboxing community, however, was neither germ-based nor a virus. Instead, it was an influx of cooties. Yes, cooties. No, this is not the kind of cootie you were warned about in junior high. Instead, cooties are a fairly new form of traveling letterbox.

Unlike hitchhikers, which are moved from from letterbox to letterbox, cooties travel from person to person, often by being left by the infected person in an open backpack or coat pocket of an unsuspecting victim, er, healthy person who only later discovers that he or she has been infected. At least 14 strains of cooties are currently floating about Mid-Missouri, and at least of dozen of them were present at the gathering. I have it on good authority that EVERY PERSON OR TEAM WITH A TRAIL NAME WAS INFECTED AT LEAST ONCE. Several people who discovered they were infected managed to pass along the outbreak before the end of the evening, only to find that in some cases, they had quickly become re-infected. If you don't think you were infected, check your pockets, bags and backpacks. You may find something that you did not expect.
How do you know if you were infected? Like regualar letterboxes, cooties usually possess both a stamp and a logbook, though some varieties are stamp-only. Most are clearly marked "Cootie" in some fashion. Cooties can come in all shapes or sizes. Most are generally small (perhaps an evolutionary advantage to be able to infect someone quickly and without detection). Unlike regular letterboxes and hitchhikerswhich must survive rain, snow, and cold, many cooties are not waterproof due to their tendency to seek more protected niches (i.e. indoor settings). Some varieties have developed special features, such as carabiners and clips, to more easily infect an unsuspecting victim, or have developed outer shells that looks like ordinary household objects--perhaps to be able to blend in better). Some varieits are actually megacooties, and may actually be larger than some regular letterboxes and hitchhikers.
What do you do when you find a cootie?
Like any letterbox, stamp the cootie stamp into your personal logbook. Since cooties tend to be small, it is customary to leave a thumb doodle in the cootie logbook instead of your signature stamp, especially if your signature stamp is too large for the logbook (though feel free to leave both). Leave a brief note with your trailname and hometown then carefully sneak the cootie onto the next letterboxer you meet. Please contact the placer to update them on the status of the cootie so that the Letterboxing Center for Disease Control can monitor any epidemics. If a personal e-mail address is not listed, you may search the travelers's page on and look up the "Other" category. The site also lists cooties.

Lastly, be aware that cooties, like any form of Letterboxing, can be highly contagious. The Letterboxing Surgeon General warns that frequently attending Gatherings may be detrimental to your health. Also, although ink stains on the thumb may be an indication that a person is infected, there are many strains of cooties for which a person carrying the disease may show no visible symptoms.


mamakopp said...

I absolutely love this idea!!!!! So much fun!!!!!

Jenny J said...

Yipes! I went to our Artisan meet-up with the intention of ridding myself of a single cootie infestation - and instead came home with new and multiple infestations!

It was a great evening - thanks to all who provided the treats and neat stamps. A hearty welcome back to C2B2 who put in an appearance.

Getting back to the cooties, eradication doesn't seem likely, does it, with such a serious outbreak. However, I'd suggest we all show up with snowshovels in hand at the driveway of a certain letterboxer (who shall remain nameless) should another big snowfall occur...

Warmest Holiday Wishes to you all!

Fox-fyr said...

I see some of you have already discovered that you can list cooties as "Found" by checking out the traveler's link from the LBNA home page.

This message brought to you by the Fox-fyr Institute for the Ending of Nefarious Diseases (F.I.E.N.D)

Fox-fyr said...

I still haven't heard confirmation from several people whom I KNOW were infectedso you may wish to check your belongings again if thought you escaped unscathed from the wrath of the cootie invasion.