The very last day.
The point spreads are such that nothing that happens today will change the position of the top five teams. That said, the top three teams have to participate today because a team cannot place without handing in a scavenge sheet for every leg.
Vi is on it. Cream cheese bagel and coffee for fuel and a walk to the UN. There we count the flags flying at the UN (only the UN flag flies on weekends, who knew). Then we catch a taxi to the Brooklyn Bridge to walk across it. Our taxi driver rounds up a 17$ fare to 20$ even though I can see the meter and I realize we’ve traveled around the world to discover some things are the same everywhere.
I do my best Spider-Man along the cables of the bridge. Tourists are snapping photos at my leaping, swinging, web-spinning mastery. Although the booklet doesn’t have it, this city is the perfect setting for a Superhero Challenge…Batman and Superman also frequent here. And look at this gothic church across from our hotel – this is Ghostbusters material.
After our mandatory scavenges we spend the next few hours visiting friends. Sitting in a restaurant eating a calzone without planning our next eight steps feels like a vacation but it also feels like we are slacking. Despite just eating a calzone, Vi can’t resist the opportunity to try to squeeze in a trip to a Five Napkins Burger before getting back to the team rendezvous point. I send our Ringmaster a text, “Does the admission price of the trip include therapy sessions to help reintegration into society now that the scavenging is over?”
He says “no” so I’ve come up with an alternative. I’ll make weekly scavenge booklets. Walk dogs (25 points). Clean dog doo (75 points).
She won’t be able to resist that one.
Back at the hotel we have a rewards ceremony. It’s Star Wars Day (May the Fourth be with you) so I was hoping for a Princess Leia lookalike to put the bronze medals on us while the theme song blared. No such luck. However one of the other teammates went to a baseball game and brought back a Star Wars themed Bobblehead for me.
I can’t figure out how she knew I was a closet Star Wars fan. The Sith Lord really does work in mysterious ways.
We have a goodbye dinner and Vi and I take some time to talk to the Ringmaster and his wife (a classic case of the woman behind the man who makes it all happen – she deserves an ovation for managing the nuts and bolts). We realize they know the game isn’t perfect and don’t really want it to be. The game is what the players want it to be, not what they force it upon you to be.
I can’t help but make a comparison to WestWorld. The architect creates the game, but what you do within it is entirely of your choosing. Does he wish more teams would compete the whole way through? Yes. Does he expect it? No. He stresses that the game makes you look in the mirror to see you for what type of traveler you are, what type of competitor you are, and most importantly, what you think you know about the world.
I wouldn’t say that Vi and I learned much new about each other. If anything, I can get away with being even more of a goofball. I find her giggling at random times when she reminisces about me being the annoying-mime-juggler-street-performer. 10 minutes for 75 points! And I find myself wondering how any of her patients survive if she hasn’t had her coffee. I can just imagine her traipsing in to work at 7am without her coffee and the nurse calling down to the morgue to ensure they have plenty of space ready.
But Vi and I did learn that the world is changing. People are optimistic and kind even in places recently ravaged by genocide (Myanmar). As my friend Sean says, “materially poor but rich in spirit.” The New Yorker who took a minute to set us toward the Clark Street station without us even asking was a positive experience to offset the evening before. Go Brooklyn!
We confirmed Vi has no circadian rhythm and mine could be broken! Sweet. And 9am is the ideal time for karaoke.
Vi noticed the world is becoming more homogeneous. There is a Western influence everywhere. There’s an increasing acceptance of other cultures that manifests in women in the Middle East not always needing to cover their heads. Their were so many English speakers who admitted they learned the language from movies. We learned the US isn’t that special – there are plenty of places that are just as nice, if not nicer in both cleanliness and modernness. The World Wide Web really is World Wide. We are all linked. The opportunities to learn and connect are abundant – a chance to see people as people rather than countries (we’ve been trained to think of huge areas of land as having an identity, such as “North Korea, Vietnam, Middle East, etc.”). Traveling makes you meet individuals and none of them seem much different than us.
Shove me in the shallow water before I get too deep.
The emails and texts have already been coming in. “Would you guys go again?”
Does Darth Vader wear a funny helmet?
For those of you who want to hear this same voice in a medical setting, I wrote a book: