Lessons learned from Toronto City Chase

Alicia and I did the Mitsubishi Toronto City Chase on Saturday. Well, we *started* the Mitsubishi Toronto City Chase, but that's Part 2 of this blog post.
The City Chase is a Canadian creation that's run around the world now. Think of it as a scavenger in which, instead of collecting items, you have to perform challenges. You get clues as to the location of the challenge; you work out where they are, then develop a logistical plan to getting through 10 of them within six hours. It's a blast.
It's also now impossible without a smart phone or encyclopedic knowledge of geography, history, music … well, pretty much everything. At this year's event, we were dependent on a smart phone simply to get the clue sheet in the first place; clues to the two distribution points were given only on Twitter. I'd seen a clue sheet from a past event and was able to work out most of them without recourse to research. Without Google, this year's event would have been a complete bust.
Social media was woven into the very fabric of the event. Teams shared solutions to clues, wait times at some of the challenges, and general information about the event. It's astute marketing on the part of the organizers. I can foresee within a couple years a City Chase with no paper clues.
As for Part 2 … the race inspired a mobile app idea, though probably not the kind you figured.
Our third challenge involved an improvised water slide down the bank at Greenwood Park, which is one of your premier toboggan hills in the Riverdale area. Soaked down by a fire hose (important note: water from a fire hydrant is glacially cold), we flew down a plastic sheet, maybe 75 to 100 feet long and covered in soapy water, on our backs. When Alicia got to her feet at the bottom of the hill, her eyes were glassy. “I hit my head. Hard,” she said. I wanted to call a stop to it, but there was another challenge at the bottom of the hill, which she accomplished with considerable co-ordination. But by the time we got to the top of the hill, it was clear she wasn't in the game. She was aware that a) we were in an adventure race; b) it was Saturday; and c)what time is it again? but that was it.
We ended up in the ER at East York General Hospital. Alicia was diagnosed with amnesia, not a concussion. In our three hours at the ER, Alicia could not retain the answers to the questions she asked, over and over again:
“What happened?”
“I hit my head on a water slide?”
“That explains why my shorts are wet.”
I am very patient with those I love. The other people in the ER, who were likely having a miserable day — I mean, you don't generally have your most fun days in an emergency room — who didn't know what a wonderful cook she is, what a wonderful relationship she has with my daughter, how funny she is, were likely ready to lynch us. So I created an FAQ for her. In one of the notebooks we'd been using to work out clues. I listed the answers to the questions she was asking over and over again. She flipped compulsively through the five or six pages of notes, about once a minute. She laughed at the same points every time, because it was all new to her. (She practically peed herself laughing every time I explained to her she'd forgotten that she had amnesia.) After a while, when she asked me a question, I would point at the notebook. Fascinatingly, she new what page the answer was on and would flip to it every time, although she couldn't retain the answer.
This is wholly suited to a mobile app: an easy-to-update, evolving FAQ for people with a persistent memory problem. The fact that Alicia new where to find the answer, though she couldn't remember the answer itself, is a critical aspect of the solution, as is the fact the questions tended to be in repetitive patterns that evolved over time.
She's fine, by the way, though she'll probably never remember Saturday afternoon.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Dave Webb
Dave Webb
Dave Webb is a freelance editor and writer. A veteran journalist of more than 20 years' experience (15 of them in technology), he has held senior editorial positions with a number of technology publications. He was honoured with an Andersen Consulting Award for Excellence in Business Journalism in 2000, and several Canadian Online Publishing Awards as part of the ComputerWorld Canada team.

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