Playing real-world tag

At my 7th birthday party, my sister slowed down from the chase, observing that I had been It for a long time. In obliviousness of her intentions, I tagged her and ran off screaming with glee. For several moments, I was free.

But in less than a minute, I was It again.

Yesterday, I participated (or attempted to—see below) in the Journey to the end of the night in Oakland (referred to me by ta-ching). A real world organized game set in Oakland of tag. Players attached green ribbons to themselves and ran around the city going to seven checkpoints in order. They had to avoid being tagged by a chaser. Once tagged, the player becomes a chaser. At the finish line, the player who got there in the least amount of time without being tagged was the winner. The chaser who tagged the most players also won.

No change in environment. No official setup. The same restaurants, the same cars, the same streets, the same homeless bums, the same buses, the same subways…were there. The players could walk, run, use public transit, but could not use a car, taxi or other self-propelled mechanisms like bikes or rockets.

At the starting line, the organizer yelled out, “Ready set…go!” Chris ran out of the amphitheater. For a few moments, I thought he left without me. Then I spotted him waiting at the top while other players streamed past him. He had cocked his head with the expression you didn’t think I would run off without you.

Heading to the first checkpoint, we ran in the middle of the street so that we wouldn’t be tagged by chasers. There were people who yelled at us thinking that we were disrupting traffic.

Chris and I set rules for what would happen if we got separated. We both wanted each other to pursue our goals, our happiness. And yet, I simply said, “If you go down, we both go down together.”

We decided that we would contact each other by phone if we got separated. If we both got tagged, we would wait for each other and go chasing together. If Chris got tagged and I didn’t, he would escort me to the next checkpoint perhaps defending me from other chasers. If I got tagged and he didn’t, I would let him run because he was more strategic and better of a sprinter.

But….this was all preparation. Because at the top of the hill, I suddenly fell so ill and couldn’t continue. Even though Chris had a choice to continue the game, he didn’t even think of continuing. As a result, we went back to the car to rest…and by the time I felt better, it was too late to continue the game.

And yet, what would have happened if we did? Would our ground rules stayed the same? Would one of us turned on each other…to betrayal? Would we have made it together? Would our own competitive spirits surprise us or destroy us? Or would at some point during the 6+ mile journey, we would tire (perhaps me) and leave the game?

And if so, would we be the same people at the beginning of the game than at the end? Or was my own sickness a mental foreboding anyway?

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