In spite of what my spell-checker thinks, I really meant to write that title. A “Spoogler” is a “spouse of a Googler.” Any clearer? No?
Several years ago, in Cambridge MA, my husband was working for a travel search engine company called ITA Software. It was a good job for him: he is a software engineer and he has always loved to travel, and to plan travel. One day in 2010, Google bought ITA and went on to create Google Travel as we know it. Google treated ITA pretty well; they kept most of its employees and made them part of Google Cambridge, eventually moving them into a new, cool office building.
But last summer my husband’s job changed significantly. He no longer works for Google travel, but for a new group at Google headquarters in Mountain View: the Mother Ship, the Googleplex. Where it all started.
We’ve been here 6 months already; it’s hard to believe but it’s true. We’re not the newest kids on the block anymore. But it wasn’t until yesterday that I attended my first Spooglers event.
As I mentioned, “Spooglers” stands for “Spouses of Googlers.” When I first heard the term “Googler” I admit I didn’t take it seriously. I mean, who says that? But my husband gets real emails from HR that say things like “the new member of your team starts today. Meet your new Googler at the HR office at 9 am.” New Googlers are even sometimes referred to as “Nooglers.” Spooglers is a thing too. People say it with a straight face.
I think I didn’t hear about the Spooglers right away because we weren’t new to Google when we moved here. Or something. I heard about it by chance at a writers’ meet-up I’ve been going to, organized by another Spoogler.
The event was a hike at the Windy Hill Open Space Preserve in Portola Valley. In spite of having lived around here in the late 80s and early 90s when I was at Stanford, I had never been there before. To get there, one drives up a mountain on CA Rte 35, taking a very windy road. And there are geocaches there. Of course.
The Spooglers met up at the Spring Ridge parking area. I was a few minutes late because I ended up stopping for gas after all. I thought I had enough when I left Mountain View, but as I rounded curve after curve, my little Mazda climbing the hill into what–surprisingly–still looks like uninhabited wilderness, I started feeling more and more anxious that I was going to run out in the middle of nowhere. So when I saw an old-fashioned-looking country store with gas pumps, I decided to stop. This might have been the last gas pump in the state for which you have to push a lever up before you can begin fueling. “It’s like old times,” the friendly owner told me, after I pushed the 87 grade button repeatedly, inserted the pump into the tank, squeezed, and no gas came out.
It turned out that others were later than I; two in particular having had ironic trouble with Google maps on their phones sending them to the wrong place.
The cache I decided to find for the day, called “Lord of the Views,” was near the beginning of the Anniversary Trail, and I got a chance to explain what geocaching is to the Spooglers group, none of whom had ever done it before.
I went off into the bushes to find the cache. At first, no one followed. I had a little trouble finding it, not sure why. But then the organizer of the hike came over to check on me because it was getting to be time to move on. I still hadn’t found it, I read her the hint, and said that according to my GPS it should be 6 feet from where we were standing. She went around the bush and called out almost immediately: “I found it! I found my first geocache!”
She had found it, but it was in sort of bad shape. It was inverted, the top was off, and it was wet inside. I brought it back out to the top of Windy Hill to show the rest of the group. I didn’t have anything to dry it out with or a new log book, unfortunately, when I replaced it. I left a note for the cache owner.
This cache is indeed a great place for views. Looking down into Silicon Valley, you can just see Stanford’s Hoover Tower there in the center, with Mountain View and San Jose off to the right. We convinced ourselves that the layer in the air is fog, not smog.
To the opposite side is the beach, although it took a little walking in the other direction to get a view of the water.
Sometimes I think it’s cheating to be a photographer in California. It’s just so easy.
By the time I got home, I had close to 10,000 fitbit steps for the day already!