This week I have been participating in GISHWHES -- aka the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen. The project was the brainchild of Misha Collins, an actor, tweeter and slightly insane guy who doesn't like Australia for hilarious reasons. It aims to raise some money to help out in Haiti as well as basically just provide a bit of fun for the participants involved.
The rules of the game are that you are not allowed to post any of your submitted images on blogs, so unfortunately I can't show you some of the awesome things I and my international and amazing team have been able to do (including the nerve-wracking excitement of breaking the law in Singapore!).
Going out and asking complete strangers to do weird and occasionally inconvenient things is something outside my comfort zone. But I have been absolutely astonished by the genuinely nice people who have, mostly, just gone , "Oh, okay. Sure, I'll help."
Asking nicely, smiling, explaining why -- this all goes to assist in getting people on side, but so far (touch wood) I'm yet to come across someone who has been rude or unhelpful. Restores one's faith in humanity, if such a thing was needed!
Today I met John Wolff, a man from Upwey (outer suburb of Melbourne) who runs a calculator museum of sorts. John was kind enough to lend me a comptometer, which, I learned, is basically a sophisticated calculator from the early 20th Century -- a precursor to adding machines and computers in the days before we had such things. Comptometers were used in offices right up until the 1970s.
A comptometer from the 1930s
John surrounded by part of his collection
We (my brother and I -- Chris was along for the ride to provide essential logistical assistance like carrying the heavy comptometer around!) took John's precious almost-computer to a local restaurant where we attempted -- as per the instructions -- to calculate the tip required for our meal of sandwiches and tea. This was made challenging by the fact that the comptometer operated in pounds, shillings and pence, and more generally by the fact that that waiters in Australia generally don't expect to be tipped.
After visiting John (and returning the precious piece of calculating equipment) we headed to Puffing Billy to photograph a pink feather boa hanging out the window of the engine carriage. Once again, we encountered helpful -- if highly bemused -- people, who willingly allowed the dignity of the grand old Billy to be compromised for the sake of a photo.
I've also had some lovely friends helping me out, in far-flung places such as Hong Kong, Canada and Brazil. And some a little closer to home, who have willingly exploited their children on my behalf.
Working with my randomly selected team (two Aussies, one Puerto Rican, the rest American) has also been a great experience. I have been astounded by their creativity, efficiency and helpfulness. Just to get a bit business-like for a moment, if anyone ever needed an exercise to prove the effectiveness of social media in creating and enhancing innovation, collaboration and connectedness, then this would be a brilliant case study!
If we don't win the challenge (and, oh, I would like to -- first prize is a trip to Rome!!) then at least I've had some fun, donated some money to charity, met some new people, and done a whole heap of things I thought I'd never find myself doing. There's something pretty magical about that.