Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The DEF's of Treasure Hunting - "E"

"E" is for "Enjoying"

"Hey! 5-Cent! It's the weekend again. What will you be doing?"
"Treasure Hunting."
"Oh! yes, I've heard of that one. Which island are you going to, to dig for it?"
"No, just driving around the roads of the city and checking out sign boards"

Your friend gives you a blur look .... and you give up trying to explain.

That was 1992. When I first got hot into this game. Fast forward to 2020!

"Hey! 5-Cent! Treasure Hunting this weekend?"
"Yup! To Penang this time. Wish me luck!"
"Aiyah! You always win one, lah - just tell me what you win when you come back!"

That's the dream of every aspiring hunter who seeks the maximum elation from the game. However, it can end up as a nightmare or an elusive imagination. It gets harder to predict with each new weekend. You win some, completely flop in a few or at others, you come close to either end. Regardless of the results, nothing beats the enjoyment we get from just participating - for just being there with all the other fellow hunters and the sight of new fresh faces.

Each hunt draws you like a magnet and when you pull yourself off one, you immediately snap onto another. Every Saturday and Sunday, if one can get on board a helicopter and hover over a 20km radius of the city, one should be able to pick out tell-tale groups of cars lined up in familiar patterns, at 3 to 5 spots in the city, early in the morning with people mingling about waiting eagerly. That's how popular this game has grown over the recent years.

Enjoying a hunt is the ultimate goal of a fan of this fast becoming local icon of a weekend past-time. There are many factors that can enhance or diminish the individual's sustainability and level of enjoyment. I will attempt to narrate what, I think enthralls every party involved, directly or indirectly in treasure hunts.

It's the eve of a treasure hunt again. Representatives of teams gather for the briefing, many still attired in their office clothes, looking smart, sharp and "pro". Most will just follow the directions of the ushers, registering, collecting their goody-bags, t-shirts, stickers and then head towards the seats. The "regulars" will chat with familiar faces. And the "masters"? They are checking out the competition by browsing through the participants' list - hoping not to see too many "familiar"names on it! How they love to have got into the hunt!

They then mentally mark attendance of the competitors who have turned up. Participants, passionate about the game, makes every little matter an enjoyable experience. It is now the time to switch on all awareness, anticipation and observation "radars" and never switching them off for even a fleeting moment until the entire hunt is over in the next day or two. How they love the gradual build-up of adrenaline flow!

At the briefing, newbies will pay full attention to every word and instruction belted out by the COCs and will stay till the end. They make sure they understand every thing. Regulars and masters will gladly skip the sample Q & A and tulip-reading sessions for an early restful night - but not before they are satisfied "by the horse's mouth" that the briefing is just the standard stuff and also not before they have taken note (or photos) of every visible"word" in the hall or its close proximity. How they love "being thorough", enjoying the smut feeling that they had left no leaf unturned!

The anticipation level of participants builds up as the clock ticks away into hunt-day. Newbies would have tossed about in bed last night partly worried they might not be up in time the next morning. The more experienced will be calmer but nevertheless equally "mentally busy" thinking about preparations including about what they have just gathered from browsing relevant web-sites. "Did we forget to prepare for anything?" "Have we prepared enough?" How they love worrying for a good reason!

But it must all be worth it! If it is not because they strongly believe that there will be fun tomorrow, why would they be so willing to swap a few extra hours of the warmth and comfort of the bed for the chilling cold and dark hours of dawn for a game that entails a predetermined set of mysteries. How they love to be all ready to be surprised!

Pre-hunt can be delicious! Hunters on hunt-days are usually treated to breakfast, free hot drinks and maybe light delicacies. They don colourful sponsored T-Shirts - matched with khaki shorts, sports shoes and clipboards in hand - a complete contrast to their office attires. Registration counters are often bustling with activities. How they love the hustle and bustle!

Cars are decorated neatly with stickers, all ready to announce their intention to rule the streets soon. Nowadays, each car will have at least one distinctive "COC" bumper sticker! The generous flashes of smiles and cordial greetings around you say how much these people enjoy getting "dressed up" to ensue an adventure of mental entertainment while socialising. How they love the party atmosphere!

The buzzing chit-chat and small talk soon give way to a strained blare from the COC's loudhailer. The final briefing begins and marks the start of a thrilling journey for all albeit for different reasons. The COC tries lightening things up and relaxing the participants while giving out serious information to the attentive crowd. The heart rate picks up for the participants as the marshals do the roll call for teams to collect their copy of the tulips and questions. The reality of the competition is getting closer for them - especially for the regulars. As for the newbies, probably something different crosses their minds - "are we up to this?", "do we know what to do?", "hope we survive and don't embarrass ourselves!", "we'll just enjoy ourselves and if we do win something, that will be a bonus." How they love the moment for action as it draws nearer and nearer!

It is getting less common now but you will still hear it occasionally, -the all too familiar "innocent baby question" - "Are the questions in sequence?" Yet, to the "masters", if this was not already clarified - it will bother them profusely - it disturbs them - they will have to ask the same question - to ease their minds - a kia-su reflex response. How they love to be sure!

As for the cool casuals, you can pick them out easily - they are the ones with cameras clicking away randomly, capturing the ear to ear grins of team mates or friends posing in the backdrop of posters or their competing cars. Memories to reminisce with joy later. Or those looking over shoulders and heads, trying to pick out familiar faces from the crowd - it is a joy to see friends any where. How they love to capture the joyful moments!

You won't hear them, maybe not even spot them - but the "masters" are carefully taking pictures of their own - of signs, banners, anything with words on them in the vicinity of the briefing place. To them, those are memories for reference later. It is intriguing to watch the stealthy gaits and cleverly disguised movements of these "craftsmen". How they love being selectively inconspicuous.

Spotted too are the inquisitive ones - rampaging through the trinkets in the goody bags - amusing themselves like little kids receiving free toys. "Wow! Nice pen! Oh! Cute lanyard! And oh, what's this? Oh! OK! That's for sis." Did you spot the "masters" doing the same? No? Try looking again but this time, look into their cars. Another hallmark of a "master" - the "be prepared or regret it for life" attitude. How they love the curiosity!

The briefing over, all papers given out, watch the crowd move orderly back to their cars. Some still taking pictures, posing along the "aisles" between the cars - and did you see the "masters" - they are the ones, walking in pairs with the q-papers in hand - discussing the treasure questions! They waste no time! Stick closer, and you may just hear a tip or two! Because, in their excitement, they may just forget that they are speaking 2dB higher than the "safe radar" level. If you hear them talking loudly, don't believe a word they say - it IS meant for you! How they love to use every bit of time that they can get!

All engines are rumbling and humming, anxiously waiting for their turn to flag off. The organisers waves off the cars, 3 to a minute as the air is filled with random honking and cheering from within and without the passing cars. COC and organisers breathe a sigh of relief - "We've made it thus far - good job!" How they love to have to see us off!

COCs will take a break to have their breakfast somewhere nearby. Once they are done taking time out, they will then join the trail to see if the hunters are having fun. To them, it is their way of enjoying their work and it satisfies their collective ego to watch us struggle, pacing up and down past the "correct answers" right underneath our noses (or more like, above our heads). How they love being sadistic!

They also wallow in giving out "tips" - mostly deceiving- to the newbies who tempt them invitingly with their "sympathetic" looks. Are they really tips? I believe they are - but only if they also know how to interpret them! How about tips for the "masters" too? Misleading ones are more likely what they will get. These "cloak and dagger" sideshows can be quite amusing, especially when the hunters try to "show off" by speaking to the COCs "cryptically" using part of the answer that they found and the COC tries to avoid acknowledging it - using their own brand of "secret" language. How they love to fool around!

Here is when the designated cameramen have a field day, capturing all the comic and spontaneous moments of hunters on the prowl. They mingle unobserved mostly. Of course, those who are aware of their presence, will take the opportunity to put on their best smiles or pose. Some will sportingly play along and put on an act for the mini-clips to be shown later at the presentation. The politically sensitive ones will just wave off the papparazi "No pictures! No comments!" How they love to embarrass us later!

Walk along the streets of those sectors where there are toughies (difficult questions not hooligans - although the end-effect we get is the same - feeling battered) and you may just witness pockets of exaggerated jubilation. These are the hunters who forget about competition or purely forgetting by mistake, let out shrills, screams, jump in joy, punching the air and doing the "Oh! yessss!" double-fisted move, when they appear to have cracked a toughie. How they love the triumphant shot in the head!

You feel so lucky too - thinking you got a break for yourself, for spotting them! So, you zoom in to the site of animated celebration, hoping that the elusive answer will reveal itself to you too! Not to dampen your excitement, but I must give you fair warning here! Don't assume that they were standing at the exact spot where the answer was - they may have just solved something that they had copied down from some distance away! If they are the "masters", even more reason you should take it with a pinch of salt - those could be the signs of "chow yun fatt" bluffing. You decide your own fate! How they love putting on a show!

Treasure hunting is often designed with maximum enjoyment in mind. It is after all a commercial business. It is advertising business. It is promotional business. It is an event to be managed professionally to bring out the best value for those who have invested money, resources and time in it. Organisers hope for repeat business! However, it is up to the players to extract the maximum fun out of it. Fun can be found before it begins and even after it ends. How they love doing it for fun and of course fund!

There is this aspect of treasure hunt nowadays that I do not support. Therefore, I will be extremely brief about it. Coconut bowling and games of chance - enjoy! How they love to see us look like kids!

When it is time to hand in the answer sheets, it is the time of greatest anxiety - will we make it in time? Did we spend enough time? Did we waste time? Did we beat the others? So many thoughts and no answers until at results time. Some will hang around to watch others check-in. They need to know the relative positions of competitors. It helps them to organise their emotions later and make their predictions! How they love to speculate!

The time to cool down and wait for the results is often the time teams move around with purposeful discretion. They choose who they want to "socialise" with. The distancing or closing in seems to reflect the confidence (or lack of it) level of a team. Try observing this "dance of the master warriors". They will circle around or move about very slowly in clear patterns, avoiding eye-contacts with certain persons or groups or trying to catch the attention of others - like shy boys and girls trying not to be the first to pop the pick-up line "How ah?". They choose who they want to "find out from" or whom they want to avoid "being found out from". Some can be seen to be hurriedly disappearing from the crowd - they just don't want to dance! How they love to "paht" or "kei-poh"!

Hunt presentation time is always the "other half of the fun". Well, of course, to many newbies - the food (lunch, teatime or dinner) is THE fun! Depending on the organisers, we do get to have quite a feast from time to time. But mostly "standard catering". How they love to gorge themselves like trying to get their money's worth!

Prior to the COC 's appearance, it is customary for the organisers to project a montage of photos taken throughout the event, sometimes short video clips are included. The audience is amused by the spontaneity of the "actors" - especially when they recognise themselves! You can hear the call out to friends sporadically and across the hall. "Hey! It's you lah! So funny!" How they love laughing at themselves!

Then a short moment of acknowledgment to the sponsors of the hunt! Their names are either read or flashed out (or both) and sincere rounds of applause fills the hall. How they loved to be appreciated!

The COC takes centre stage and all attention is given to him/her for the next hour or so. Don't just listen to the sadistic tone in the voice, but pay attention to the facial expressions! See how they tease you as they unleash their wittiness through their powerpoint or flash presentations. Try to sense their suppressed joy when they proclaim "Nobody got this one right." This, is the ultimate, as one KK based COC put it - "Reserved for COC" question or treasure. Wickedly designed to fool the best of the land! How they love to make us feel defeated and yet we cannot not show our respectul recognition of an excellent trick!

There is so much to enjoy in watching the thoroughly orchestrated animation, some even with sound effects and voice overs. The crowd is often awed by the clever juxtaposing of text animation with movie clips or songs. Very educational often too! At one place in the north, we often felt like we have gone back to school! How the COCs love feeling like a hollywood movie director or for one, like a Professor (Ahem! You know who you are!)

As for the audience, watch the body languages of competitors and the reactions of others - huge contrast. Competitors - restrained. Non-competitors - involving! The newbies will "cheer" or "boo" the answers - but always appreciative. Competitors - still restrained - carefully counting their "rights" and suffering in silence "their wrongs". Each answer as it is announced is like a "poker card" being revealed very, very slowly - word by word. You will either see "subtle shakes of heads" or "poorly disguised spurts of joy". There are of course, the professional poker faces! Sometimes, these masters know they have already made a mistake. Still, they hope for a miracle - like the question is canceled! Did you catch the snicker or two too? When they know an opponent has lost vital points! How they love anticipating, praying and hoping!

Once all answers are released, watch the general movement in the hall - especially the doors - heavy traffic of participants pouring out to the loos - to relieve themselves, either the natural way or by replenishing their nico levels, or both. The break also sees some people (masters usually) moving about in and out of tables doing another variation of the post-hunt dance albeit shorter quick-steps - maybe, more like tango-like (arms around back of chairs and facing the opposite direction). If you can pick it out of the din - you will hear the familiar modest "bluffing"! How they love to size up competitors before the final show!

Time for the results and the suspense - the winners are called up from the bottom to the top. The "who's that roll call" begins. Newbies cheering like they have won the lottery as their team mates go on stage to pick up their hampers! I still recall that one moment in my life when I went up to a 5 x 5' podium to receive my first prize in my very first treasure hunt - announced as a "Special Prize"! Everyone was asking "What's the special prize, ah?" Noticing the commotion, the COC kindly explained - for being the 21st out of 21 teams! And I got a bullock-cart from some Melaka souvenir store - I guess it was the local symbol for "Slow Coach"! One of the co-COCs of my maiden hunt then is now my team partner. How I love putting that behind me for good!

Each team has a fair idea of their relative position in the final standings - someone calls that seeding. With that in mind, as the roll call gets underway, their "guess" either increases with hope or drops like a brick:

"Who's that? Don't know. Not a regular".
"Who's that? Not sure, but have seen them around before".
"Who's that? Regular but seldom make it to top ten."
"Who's that? Ixxxx Sxxxxx lah! They always make it to top ten mah! Won some hunts too".
"Who's that? Huh? It's the Nxxxx Gxxx! Eh? How come? They must have dropped a treasure!"
"Score? What's their score? Didn't catch it!"

Followed quickly with "Who's left?" "Us, 2S & 2 I, who else?"

And after a few quick look around and mental computation, the shortlist is completed. Now, it is only a matter of who's tops! How they love to feel their heart racing!

The ultimate feeling - taking to the podium. It is a great feeling to be in the top 3. The highest exhilaration of course is reserved for the winner - almost always deservedly. Why almost? Read "C" for "Compromising" and you will get some of the ideas! How they love to savour the moment for as long as they could!

Oh! By the way, in some hunts - that podium finish is not the final result ... they are actually up there to do a "play-off" . A final round of quiz or challenge to determine the final standings of the top 3. theSun hunt is one hunt that has consistently featured this. How they love to keep everyone in suspense!

The media rushes over and picks out the winning teams' "leaders". The pride of winning gets from the head to the tongue and then to the print in the next few days. The day draws to a close leaving every participant, every person involved in organising and every corporate representative supporting the event with a sense of satisfaction, pride and to different degrees - Enjoyment! How they love to see themselves publicised!

As for the "defeated" - there is always another weekend! How they love weekends!

The post-mortem analysis begins here. Each team making their own deductions of the other teams' dropped points. "What did they drop ah?" If only you can hear them - it is amazing how they very deftly guess correctly the precise question, treasure, challenge or MKJR that the other opponents have failed to score. Watch them giving the "See! I was right!" expressions when they finally cross-paths and perform the last ritual of the day/night - comparing final notes. How they love to re-live the challenging moments (for some) and regret some.

That's "E" ... I hope I have been able to help those who have felt they did not enjoy themselves in hunts, discover new reasons or venues to get the most out of hunts. Do try again! I am sure you will have a more fulfilling experience the next time! Until "F" ... How I love to retire now and enjoy my own moment of peace with myself!

P/s Please feel free to substitute your own team's name at any point in the story. The story line will remain the same! Enjoy!


kkchai said...

wow...3200+ words !
Very unlike you in real person leh. :)

BlogCe5nT said...

Couldn't find the pictures to go with it - so have to "paint with the thousands of words" lor!

2 Romans 1 Impostor said...

Guess you missed the post-hunt analysis or how some love to Keh-Poh: to find out what questions others had dropped during the hunt although I am not sure what satisfaction can be derived from doing so.

BlogCe5nT said...

Thanks for the hightlight, 2R1I!

Dear All,
Do read it again ... I have updated it with a few more "Oh, I forgot"'s!

Cornelius Koh said...


IF there is such a thing as a Treasure Hunt Degree; and IF this were your dissertation, I would grade it as an A+. You would then be in the position to earn a First Class Honours Degree in Treasure Hunting!

BlogCe5nT said...

Very honoured indeed, dear Chancellor Corny!

If we ever start a HRUniversity, I will gladly recommend to the Board to bestow upon you, our first Hononary Doctorate!

Then you will officially be our nation's first Dr.COC!