Saturday, January 31, 2009

The JKL's of Treasure Hunting - "L"

Courtesy of

"L" is for "Looking"

The most used word while treasure hunting, I believe - "Start looking!", "What are we looking for?", "Don't know what to look for?", Look your side!", "Hey! Why not looking?!", "Is anybody looking? Sector already started!", "Looking! Looking! Okay?"

It is the next most exciting part of hunting, this act of Royal Flush. The more exciting part is cracking clues! It is also the time when team members compete subtly amongst themselves - "see who spots it first".

Front seaters will have the widest angles to cover. Back seaters sometimes try to steal the chance by peering in between the front seaters! Back seaters also have the advantage of looking through their back windows - a very important thing to remember to do - as some answers are actually those on the back of the front-facing signboard.

It can also be very straining on the necks. Especially when travelling along narrow roads and there are multi-storey buildings to look at. There are some cars that are just not built for treasure hunting. The windows are too short and too narrow. The seats are sometimes too high. The lean-angles are also not well designed, making it difficult (forcing you to press your nose against the glass) to look at signs high up the buildings.

Ideally, the windows should be tall, start low and are wide. The back windows are also seldom wide enough to view "passed signs". 4WD SUVs generally have the good height, comfort but lack the "ideal windows size" on the sides. Front view is generally very good. I have never felt comfortable hunting in a SUV unless I am seated in the front.

Saloon cars - there are more varieties here - some are like what I have described - unsuitable, but there are some that are very good - like that of the Renault Kangoo - in my opinion, perfect "all round windows". You must try it to see for yourself! The Kenaris also have good side window sizes. If you must use a van - then the Nissan Vanette has good window sizes.

Those with sun-roofs would have some advantage in having a panoramic view from a seemingly vantage point. But I think it is only safe if you are travelling, really very slowly, in less busy areas and in a good weather. You will probably quickly get tired of balancing yourself through that hole in the car too. That is from my own observations - the heads pop out from the holes usually very often for the first few sectors. Then you hardly see that act towards the afternoon and later sectors.

I have seen those who travel in "naked backs" like the Storms or the Tritons. Again, good views but hardly comfortable - one also has to manage the fluttering papers! So it is just a fad to me to be looking for answers that way.

Speaking of angles and views, some COCs do their questions based on using a SUV and so will tend to pick signs that are "high". While those who use the lower profiled saloons, tend to pick signs that are lower. So, you can now guess what can happen when we go looking for the answers.

Depending on what vehicle you are using, you will have to adjust your angles - stooping sometimes - to ensure you have scanned both the high and the low signs. Sometimes, we only realised that we have missed a sign when we get out of the car to walk. Then we spot the answer and ask ourselves "Why didn't we see it just now in our cars?". Answer : it was too low for someone in a SUV to spot. The same goes for a very high sign which was out of view of a low-profile saloon - the window framework had blocked your view.

When walking along a sector, to look for answers, one has the best chance to be very thorough. It will however take more time and it is usually done only in desperation. Just don't forget to re-check if that was "fair play". You may spot something that fits the answer but it is impossible to see from the car in the intended direction of travel (according to the tulip). So you may have "red herring-ed" yourself and cut off the sector for the next question and so on.

How you look for the answer is another important skill - besides accuracy, thoroughness is critical. I usually deploy a top down, left to right scan. And then repeating it in reverse to look for the "in the shadows" signs. In a moving vehicle, I am usually the one who concentrate on the smaller signs, as the rest of the team are quicker at scanning the bigger signs.

Looking at signs require patience too. If you hurry yourself, you will tend to "disregard" signs and that could just be the answer. Teamwork also means that you must avoid getting too indulged with "competing to spot the answer" - just do your part first and then you can expand your "duties" when the team is still not able to look for the answer - more because "don't really know what we are looking for".

You also have to learn to look for answers without being disturbed by strange "fonts". Neon lights, fanciful sign designs and faded signs tend to hide the answers very well. So, be especially suspicious and thorough with such signs.

Once you have seen the answer - remember to double-check the spelling - it will all be wasted if you had jotted it wrongly. Do not correct any mistakes on the signs! "As you see it" - that's the rule. Don't forget to accurately get down the "supporting signs" too - or your answer may not be accepted. Proofs of "Cracked, Spotted and Recorded" correctly are the rules of the game.

One of the most fascinating behaviour in the car when someone spots the answer is in the way the spotter desperately and excitingly tries to describe to the rest of the team where the answer is - without pointing!

"There lah- you cannot see, meh?"
"Where got? You must tell us near where lah!"
"There lah - below xxxx sign"
"Ai Yah! Where is xxxx sign?"

You guys will just have to figure out a way to communicate without raising the blood pressure in the team!

And there is of course the all important pretentious "looking" away from the answer. Looking at where the competitor is looking at is another useful technique. Being aware of this, masters have developed ways to "look" at the "false" signs - sometimes, deliberately staring at it long enough to make competitors believe there was something there. If they move away from the sign suddenly - see if they also smile - if they do, chances are - it is a false one!

Learning how to look at body language is very useful too!

When a competitor passes you and suddenly looks away - is a sign that they have found the answer from the direction they came from or they have received confirmation by phone from someone that the answer has been found. It may not be affirmative, still, it is good to be more thorough with re-looking at the signs from where the competitor has come from.

Drivers can also learn to look at the signal lights of the hunting car in front of you. Braking usually means - something interesting. And taking off almost immediately is a give-away sign that the answer is around there. Why? Because the driver in hearing the answer usually forgets that he is being watched! It is often not easy to know that you are being watched - so keep a good distance and watch those red lights and if you can, also the general movement of heads and bodies in the car - if excited and lots of looking around after a moment of stills - there is something there! Masters know better when it is real or not - from experience.

Not every one is endowed with 20/20 vision. So, some of us will carry binoculars - very useful indeed. Just that, there is now one more giveaway "behaviour". So be discrete or "act a lot" to confuse the competitors - like passing the bino to another team member to "also look " at other signs. Again, if the sign cannot be seen with "naked eyes" - it may not be fair-play.

You will have to judge if the COC's pair of eyes are "normal". One of the COCs was given the nick-name "Eagle-eyes" for that - he had set some questions on signs that were so "tiny" only he could see them. For the rest of us - we could only see them when we got down to walk/drive abnormally closer to the sign or use our binos. Not sure if he still does it because he has hardly done public hunts in the last few years. Of course, if you have a pair of eagle eyes in your team as well - that would be a great asset. Just don't forget to engage him/her!

Do I advise you to look beyond the sectors? The normal advice is to know where the sector starts and ends. Then you don't waste time. If your confidence with a COC is good, then this advice is usually good too. I believe every COC works towards winning the "players' confidence".

Don't forget to peep into the lanes between buildings and extend your gaze as far as you can possibly see. After taking into consideration your own visual power, you may have to decide whether to deploy the binos or not.

The road sides and dividers are also laden with signboards - watch out for them too. Construction signboards are also lined with names of the contractors, architects, engineers and other authorities - popular with COCs.

And then there are the graffiti - though I believe these have become increasingly unpopular. Still, I won't ignore them for now. Look up into the skies for the balloons, the "Hollywood" sign in the distant hill or those steel signs on the roofs of some far away skyscrapers. Look thoroughly all around you - you can never tell where there are words or signs that have attracted the interest of the COC.

Walk hunts present yet another set of demanding skills. There are more nooks and corners to cover. The floors, the floor directories, below staircases and escalators, on coin-operated play machines, island stalls, through display windows and doors of shops and even watch the "moving" displays. Parks and gardens will have plant names. Halls will have exhibition panels. Generally, I dread walk-hunts more than motor hunts - you have to move about so much (running is not uncommon), look a lot more and there is absolutely no "sequence" - you are on your own to find your way about.

Treasures are also targets for "lookers". Don't get caught being seen what and where you got your treasures - as the on-looking competitor may just have got lucky having spotted you and your treasures. Pretend plentifully if you still insist on "shopping" - best to give it up and go somewhere else. Or work with a partner to "smuggle" it out of sight of the competition. Still, you may have to deal with the "talkative" cashier.

Needless to say, looking up dictionaries, thesauruses and the Internet are vital too. Don't be lazy here - some things appear obvious to you but there are always things that you still do not know. So flip those pages diligently!

That's "L" ... looking forward to hearing your stories about looking for answers too. I am sure you have some to share.

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