time reversal

the stories of four physicists separated by the whims of fate

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Journey to the end of the night

June 21st, 2009 by liz

I got an e-mail a few weeks ago from a friend who is spending 9 months isolated from the real world, encouraging me to spend one night running through it. Last night, there was a street game in Oakland, which was basically a giant game of tag mixed with a running race mixed with a scavenger hunt all across the city. You start out with a map of checkpoints wearing a green ribbon. Your goal is to get to all the checkpoints without being tagged by the chasers, who are wearing orange ribbons. The first runner to the end with all the checkpoints signed wins. If you get tagged, you hand over your green ribbon and put on an orange one, and begin stalking your former allies. The chaser at the end who has collected the most green ribbons wins the chaser prize. This sounded like a lot of fun to me, so I grabbed another friend from the lab (Christain), and off we went to Oakland.

We arrived right at 7, to find at least 100 people already gathered in the small amphitheater. By the time the organizer announced that we were looking for fortune tellers at the first checkpoint, the crowd had at least doubled in size. “On your mark, get set, GO!” People took off, running in large groups, confusing motorists as we flowed across streets en masse. Soon, chasers on bicycles with orange ribbons flapping behind them began harassing us, “You better run!” one yelled as he zoomed past.

Christian and I were the first to arrive at Checkpoint 1, where we both drew the Queen of Wands card–a good omen for the night to come, according to the fortune tellers. As we prepared to leave, a staff member called in our physical descriptions to the chasers ahead. As soon as we left the park, a chaser started bearing down on us. We split, and I crashed through some bushes, only to find myself trapped in a fenced-in backyard. There was a way up in the far corner, so I ran over to it, climbed the fence, and then jumped into the parking lot on the far side. I joined up with Christian, who had also lost the Chaser, and we continued. Shortly thereafter, a confluence of 3 chasers managed to nab me, while Christian escaped. As I handed over my green ribbon in trade for an orange one, one thought burned in my mind. He was going down.

I saw Christian run off towards the third checkpoint, forgetting the second. I hid behind a large tree next to the path he was sure to travel when he realized his mistake. After 10 minutes, I saw him walking back towards the park that contained checkpoint two, completely oblivious to my presence. I jumped out from behind the tree and narrowly missed tagging him. He sprinted into the safe zone, where I could not get him. Luckily for me three other runners were startled by my jump out and started running down the path along the river, which was fenced off for at least 1/4 mile. They had nowhere to run but strait ahead, and I soon caught the slowest of them. I now had someone on my side, and we went back to stalk Christian at checkpoint 2.

He came running out of checkpoint 2 and went up some stairs into a garden. On my way after him, I tagged an unsuspecting runner, who quickly converted to my cause and helped me lay a trap. What Christian didn’t realize was that there was no way out of this garden he had run into. As he came crashing back down through the trees, I chased him towards my hiding compatriot. This new chaser jumped out, but narrowly missed tagging Christian. Christian went tumbling down a hill, taking out all the plants in his path, and then jumped up at the bottom and started running. As I was running after him he realized that his green armband had come off in the fall, and paused for a second. It was just the second that I needed, and I nailed him. He reluctantly went back, picked up his armband, and handed it over.

Now that we were allied again, we began stalking runners together. We had the best luck outside of checkpoint 4. Christian was quite a fast chaser, and whenever he started chasing a group he always caught at least one runner. With a scheme of one of us chasing runners towards another hiding in the shadows, we managed to catch 11 runners by the end of the night.

Around midnight, we walked into the final checkpoint. It had been a long night of running, and my legs hadn’t ached this much since my high school years of cross country running. I flopped down on the floor of the gazebo and split a granola bar with Christian. Finally, we walked back to his car for the ride home completely exhausted, but content.

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