Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Urban Planting

This morning, I had a talk with a fellow from the "Investigations division of the Security Department" at Walt Disney World about letterboxes planted there. It's not a very comfortable conversation to have, and I have two takeaways from our little chat.

The first is: They don't want letterboxes on Disney property. This, of course, is not a big surprise. At least it shouldn't be a surprise, and they've confiscated all of the boxes they could find. (I was tempted to title this post "Massacre at Disney World," but the subject seems too important to joke around with.) As sorry as I am to see the loss of any letterboxes, that's the risk one takes when you plant letterboxes where they aren't wanted by the land owners.

The guy I talked to wanted me to explain why they don't want letterboxes there, and the reasons really shouldn't come as a surprise. They're afraid that someone might report a letterbox as a suspected bomb and have to evacuate large portions of the park while they sent in people to "investigate" the suspicious item. Lest you think this type of thing could never happen, rest assured, it can. Downtown Disney (the Disneyland version) closed down a little over a month ago over a suspicious object that turned out to be a geocache. Basically, they don't want any suspicious objects or even people acting suspiciously. It causes them problems.

The other takeaway I had, which worries me even more, are a couple of the boxes he described me to as being covered in camo tape and dangling in trees from wires--one of which was near a propane tank. From the sounds of it, I don't think the planter would have known a propane tank was on the other side of the fence--Disney likes to hike the "workings" of their park so people can imagine they're in a utopia that has no need for such pedestrian items like propane tanks. But it was planted near a fence of some sort, and even if the planter didn't know what was on the other side of it, their security people know about it and understandably get a little itchy when they see someone acting suspiciously with a camo-taped box with wires sticking out of in the trees by the fence.

So I'd like to remind folks a few common-sense things about hiding letterboxes in urban areas--and I'm not talking about Disney World (where you shouldn't be planting boxes at all), but all urban areas:
  • Don't use camo tape on your boxes. Seriously, do you want people to think you've hidden a bomb? In busy, high-traffic areas, camo tape is your enemy.
  • Label the outside of your container so people can read what it is without opening it.
  • Use a clear container so people can see into the box without opening it.
  • Keep the box small! Containers like a film canister are much less likely to be mistaken as threats than a large box.
  • Don't plant your boxes near anything that might be construed as a "target"--bridges, propane tanks, iconic landmarks, electrical boxes, etc.
  • Don't use a container that looks like a pipe bomb. (Cylindrical with capped ends.)
When you plant a letterbox in urban locations, the only thing worse than a muggled box is a box that's mistaken by the authorities for something dangerous. And if you see any boxes that do look threatening, even if they aren't your own, remove it. I'd rather have the box go "missing" than have the bomb squad blow it up.

Now that you don't have letterboxes to look for at Disney World, do what Amanda and I did on our last visit: Marjorie photos. =)

Thanks!

14 comments:

mudflinginfools said...

I wonder if they ever considered doing a series of 'sanctioned' boxes. They do enjoy the whole hidden in plain site thing with the hidden Mickey thing. And if THEY sanctioned boxes - they would know about them. Just a thought...

Amy Marr said...

I had the same thought as the above poster - why don't they just make their own series of boxes? They've got the time, money, and creativity. And they wouldn't even have to be "hand carved," per se.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a very important reminder. Before 9/11, people wouldn't have thought much about it, but stange objects (especially in camo) are scary objects. I would be mortified if people were frightened, much less evacuated, because of my little box! I have been writing "Letterbox" on my boxes/bags in red. I'd rather have it thrown out than blown up!

Yosemite MJD

Mello Bunny said...

If you need to hunt for something while at Disney, look for the hidden Mickeys. http://www.hiddenmickeyguy.com/

Pam said...

We just had an incident in a nearby town . . . Port Stanley, Ontario . . . where the wire broke on a geocache and it fell from its hiding place in a tree. The weird box with wires poking out was reported to the Ontario Provincial Police who alerted the bomb squad and so on . . .

Lisa said...

I wonder if we have ever considered getting our boxes 'sanctioned' by asking permission before we plant them. Oh, the trouble that could be avoided...

Lisa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sheila said...

Hmmmm the Disney folks ought to plant their own official boxes.

LgMouthJess said...

I hear the National Park Service might be relaxing their LB/Geocache regulations. If you know anything about it, I wonder if you'd consider writing an article/blog post about it. Inquiring minds want to know! :)

Anonymous said...

If I was going to place something at Disney, I'd leave just the stamp hidden somewhere. It's not like you will ever see a logbook again anyway.

With that said, I know of a few places stuff has been hidden for years! I once left a notebook and a park map, and picked it up 6 years later!

Rabid Quilter from CA said...

No camo, no disney. Aye Aye, Captain!

Brigitte said...

I, too, like the idea of corporations like Disney planting their own boxes. It'd draw letterboxers to the park, and they'd have complete control.

Anonymous said...

We have done several "Web-boxes" in the National Parks. Its not quite the same, I admit, but still a fun treasure hunt for our kids and they get to read and search and then we get the fun of typing it in and downloading the picture off of the web box to put into our book:)

Omi S. and her dog, Bender Oak Cannon said...

It befuddles me when I see news like this. I've seen articles like the one you shared for other letterboxes/geocaches/scavenger hunts, and we've actually had two geocaches in Portsmouth "deactivated" by police who mistook them for bombs. Oddly enough, many of the police force I've met in the neighboring city are quite familiar with these hobbies. Since letterboxing has become so popular via the web, i guess it comes down to how knowledgeable your local officials are.