A couple of days after I first joined Bookcrossing (8 February 2003), I got a PM from Mothercat, another Christchurch Bookcrosser, inviting me to a meetup the next evening. I was understandably a bit nervous about the idea, but she seemed friendly, and the group was meeting in a public place (a cafe in the centre of town), so I decided it seemed safe enough. Mothercat had told me to look out for a group of people carrying books, so I reasoned I’d be able to leave without introducing myself if I turned up and they all looked scarey or something 🙂
Anyway, I arrived at the designated cafe, and it was shut. As I was standing outside, wondering what to do next, someone came up to me and asked if I was with the Bookcrossing group – he was another newbie who’d turned up to find the cafe closed. We stood chatting for a while, and eventually some more people appeared, all equally bemused about the shut cafe. It turned out that the meetup had been organised through Meetup.com, an American site, and whoever had submitted the venue to them hadn’t actually checked whether it was open in the evenings. In fact, nobody seemed to know who had actually submitted the venue details anyway – the whole Meetup.com system seemed to be rather random. We still managed to have our meetup, though – there was another cafe across the road which was open, and which had outside tables, so we could keep an eye out for other lost Bookcrossers.
The following month, the meetup was scheduled for a cafe in Sumner (for those of you who don’t know Christchurch, Sumner is a suburb way out on the beach, a long way from the city centre, and difficult to get to by public transport). At least this time the cafe was open, but again, nobody seemed to know who had picked such an inconvenient location. A few of the long-time Bookcrossers mentioned that they’d tried submitting better venues to Meetup.com, but they never seemed to be chosen. We agreed that we’d be better off just deciding for ourselves where to have our meetups, and ignoring Meetup.com altogether, but then there was the problem of letting everyone know where the meetup would be. Around this time, I mentioned that I had some free web space that I wasn’t using, and somehow managed to volunteer to set up a website for meeting announcements. And thus, the Christchurch Bookcrossers website was born. We abandoned Meetup.com, organised our own meetups, and haven’t looked back since.
Anyway, what brought all this to mind was that this morning I was checking my phone messages at work, and there was a message from a name and voice that sounded familiar – I was sure that it was WhiteRabbit, a Bookcrosser who’d been a regular at meetups when I first joined, but who hasn’t been active lately. I wasn’t entirely certain though, because I didn’t know her surname – even when Bookcrossers meet in person, we tend to use our screennames (mainly because that’s what we’re used to seeing in PMs and on the forums), so I have enough trouble remembering what everyone’s real first name is, let alone remembering their surname! And, of course, she didn’t know she was ringing FutureCat, because she didn’t know I worked here. Anyway, I rang her back, and got her answerphone, so after leaving a message about what she’d rung about, I said “By the way, is that the ***** who is known as WhiteRabbit? If you aren’t, then this won’t mean anything to you, but if you are, then I’m FutureCat – give me a ring.” And luckily for me (I had visions of a confused customer ringing my boss to complain!) it was her – she rang me back, and we caught up on the Bookcrossing gossip (she’s been busy with other stuff for the last few months, which is why she hasn’t been around), and she said she’ll try and make it to our December meetup.
Serendipity is a word that often comes up in relation to Bookcrossing (usually when the right book finds its way to the right person), and this seems to me like yet another instance of serendipity in action. At Lytteltonwitch’s on Saturday, we were discussing some of the Bookcrossers we haven’t seen for a while, and WhiteRabbit’s name came up. Three days later, she rings me. It’s all part of the Bookcrossing karma 🙂
Currently reading: Keep It Simple, Stupid by Peter Goldsworthy.