“It’s a smoke screen,” Ta-ching declared, looking at my Ziploc bag of cornstarch. “I don’t think that will stop any chasers.”
It was impossible to tell when it was going to begin. With Sam the organizer shouting somewhere into the crowdâ€”the instructions and the hint…we saw people starting to run. Did it just start?
Ta-ching disappeared from our group. As Chris and I ran toward Steuart Street, we spotted Ta-ching who found two female friends. We started off on our trek following the crowd. Chris and Ta-ching started jogging. Having read logs of previous journeys, I shouted that we shouldn’t need to run. According to a journey in 2006, the key was to maintain a steady paceâ€”to not tire by the end and…not run. Running attracted attention and tired us out. So we strolled and chatted. We smiled at other groups as they passed us. Ta-ching also agreed that last time he didn’t even see a chaser until checkpoint 2.
It was going to be a great night. Last time, I got sick 10 minutes into the journey in Oakland. But this time, I will make it further. Chris and I had discussed this earlier in the day. It wasn’t to make it to the endâ€”I already saw a lot of people who seemed more prepared. It wasn’t just to make it to two checkpointsâ€”this was even too low of a goal for me. We agreed that we wanted to make to the endâ€”make it through all 7 checkpoints throughout the city.
I was excited. Chris in his all-knowing way of San Francisco led our small group of 5 to the first checkpoint at South Park. This should be easy.
I felt a push from behind and a voice.
“I got you,” the clown said and tagged ta-ching. Then the other two girls. “And you. And you.”
Chris had immediately dodged away and stood at a safe distance. The clown said in a polite voice, “Your ribbons please.”
I was distraught. No, it couldn’t be. We barely went half a mile. Barely 10 minutes. All that I had prepared for…and everything. I was upset. Again. Tagged. The thought of being having fun as a chaser didn’t even cross my mind. I expected to play at least 3 hours. NO! But I reluctantly handed over my yellow ribbon. BUT, no this couldn’t be. THE second time! But I wasn’t feeling sick. I wasn’t tired. I wasn’t…I WAS TAGGED.
Chris asked from his safety position, “What should I do?”
“You can call truce,” the clown said.
I immediately responded and waved him away, “No! Go!”
Chris looked at us. Then he turned and ran down the street to the first checkpoint.
The clown ran to the other side of the street and tagged the girl dressed as a painting. She screamed. But for her, she couldn’t see him coming from behind.