Saturday, June 13, 2009

Subterfuge, Deception, and Lots of Fun!

I attended the Spy vs. Spy event this afternoon. The description for the event includes: You are a spy. You steal. You lie. You cheat. You live in the shadows. You sleep in "safe houses". You do all of this in the name of the country that pays you the most. You are dishonorable. You have no alliances.

That sounded like fun. Serious fun. And a little while later, I got an e-mail from Doublesaj asking if Amanda and I would be interested in joining her and John as Team Chuck. Chuck, being the geeky inadvertent spy from the Chuck TV series. I can identify with Chuck, so a team was formed.

Doublesaj says she invited us into her team because she knew we'd be competitive. We'd take the spy thing seriously. We'd play to win.

We didn't want to disappoint. Given the nature of the event, sabotage was the first thought that came to my mind, but alas, the few rules that were established said we were not allowed to remove or move letterboxes to other locations. Just as well, I suppose, since otherwise other teams would have done that to us. But surely we could work out a couple of sneaky little tricks to put ourselves ahead and/or put other teams further behind. But how?

We came up with numerous scenarios, most of which my teammates blame on me. Hmm.... Okay, admittedly, I might have been the most intrigued with how to follow the letter of rules while enthusaisticly breaking the spirit of the rules. =) We were spies. It was expected.

The e-mails we got about the event included interesting pieces of information about Slick Kitty, who hosted the event. She likes the color purple. She likes Dr. Pepper. She likes diamonds, and chocolate-covered strawberries with almonds. So we found potential bribes. We had a purple visor, Dr. Pepper (both soda and Jelly Bellies). We had bribes. We weren't sure what we would use them for, but we wanted to be prepared. Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. We were spies. Bribes were not above us.

We also needed to know the lay of the land. We headed out to the park the day before, and scouted out the area. Learned the trails, identified likely landmarks that might be used in clues, and... hey, we were in the area.... we looked for boxes. We didn't have any clues, but I never saw a rule that said we couldn't try looking for them anyhow. We did find one of the boxes that afternoon, the codebook, giving us an official head start.

And despite looking for these boxes with an enemy combatent (Princess Lea was with us), we managed to keep the secret of the codebook from her. There were 18 boxes in total, but 4 were the critical ones we needed to win the game, and we already knew the location of one of them.

But our big idea, the one to really get us ahead of the game, was to create decoy boxes. We couldn't do anything to the real boxes, but what if someone found what they thought was the real box? They'd log into that and move on, not knowing that they'd been had until it was too late.

So the night before, I secretely created a few extra boxes to use as decoys. I made logbooks, I carved stamps, and I created decoys.

The decoys actually served two purposes. The first and primary purpose was to get teams to overlook the real boxes hidden just behind the decoys. The second, in the event that the decoy did not fool a team, it would still slow down the other teams. As every letterboxer knows, when a letterboxer finds a letterbox, you HAVE to stamp in. It's ingrained in our culture. It cannot be avoided, so in a worst-case scenario, at least the decoys would slow other teams down as they stopped long enough to stamp into both boxes, and perhaps cause a great deal of confusion when they found two boxes rather than one.

We also considered how to improve our stamp-in time. I carved a team stamp the night before so we could just stamp in with one stamp rather than each of our signature stamps, and we used an ink pad rather than our usual markers since we could stamp with an ink pad faster than markers.

The morning of the event, before the event started, we got there early enough to plant the first decoy for the codebook since we already knew where that box was. Then we had another hour before the event was officially to begin, so we continued looking for additional boxes early.

We found two more--Sherlock Holmes and the Disguise. The Disguise was one of the four that we needed to get to win. Sweet! Sherlock was nice to know about, but wasn't critical to winning the game. At least that meant we didn't have to waste time "finding" it later. We were incredibly lucky that of the three boxes we found before the event actually started, two of them were the critical ones we needed. We planted another decoy box with the Disguise.

We also had another incredibly lucky stroke of luck--there was a mole we needed to find, and as it turned out, John was the mole. He let us in on this secret that morning, and another diobolical plot was hatched. We didn't want others to find the mole--he needed to be found to win the game as well. People were to tell John a phrase, and if they were correct, he would give them the last of the five stamps necessary to win the game. We needed to make sure nobody else got his stamp.

So we implemented a 'defense.' Whenever we saw another group, John would hang back so if someone tried to guess the secret phrase, they'd ask one of us first. And we'd give them a stamp! Once they thought they had the mole stamp, they'd stop asking around and never get around to John....

Some would say we cheated, but that seems a little extreme. We were spies, after all, expected to be "dishonorable." Other teams should be doing the same, and we racked our brains trying to think of ways that other teams might trick us! We worried most about wassamatta_u. We knew that of everyone involved, he would be the most dishonorable lout of them all. But we were pretty pleased with our advanced preparations.

The event started. Slick Kitty interrogated most of the teams, including us, and she seemed to focus on John and myself as being most likely to be the mole. We pointed to Amanda, describing her recent travels to Amsterdam and Dublin, but Kitty would have none of it. Sweet little Amanda? (That's what makes her such a good spy!) Yes, as spies, we'd even throw each other under the bus. =)

The game was now afoot, and we finally had the official clues to all of the boxes. We worked out the codes in them, then started off to find the ones we hadn't already found. We were amazingly quick and efficient, and our incredible luck finding just the boxes that were necessary to win the game kept coming up surprisingly often. One of the needed stamps was held by Sherlock Holmes, a character walking around who quizzed us about the character. We couldn't exactly hide a decoy on the person, we went went with plan B and planted the box with another nearby box that wasn't necessary to find--just to slow down other teams who needed to log into two boxes instead of one.

After we got the last box, we thought we were home free. We just needed to check in and we had it bagged. Until we crossed paths with the Salad Tongs. They accused us of being Russian spies, and--most horribly--they were right. We were employed by the Russians and having been caught, we were to be branded traitors and hung. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

But we were spies. We wouldn't go out without a struggle. We offered gifts, some people might call them bribes, but 'gifts' sounds nicer. Most of the gifts were the bribes we brought for Slick Kitty. Now we had more important things on mind--saving our necks. We bribed their kids. I offered some hand-carved Tortuga stamps. We squirmed. We begged. There may have even been tears.

They made out like bandits, but they finally agreed to let us go. We checked in, officially winning the game, at which point we admitted to our deceptive, nefarious ways to get so far ahead.

Because, quite literally, we could not have won without the clemency granted by the Salad Tongs, we gave them a trophy we won in appreciation. They helped us win, after all (though admittedly, if it wasn't for them, we wouldn't have been in such trouble in the first place!)

We ate, we laughed, I warned others about the decoys we had set out so people could find the real boxes now that time was no longer of the essence. Eventually, we headed out again to find the rest of the boxes that we hadn't found yet--those that weren't necessary to win the game, and we picked up the decoys we had planted earlier now that they were no longer necessary.

The decoys did work, too! The codebook decoy had two teams that stamped in, but did not stamp into the real codebook box. The disguise decoy had three teams that stamped in, but only one of them found the real box when we finally pulled the decoy. Several people logged into the key decoy, though one person wrote, "Ryan, you evil bastard!"--so I don't think that decoy fooled him. ;o) I did see how many people logged into that decoy, but I didn't check how many of them logged into the real box. Of the three, it was the least effective decoy given the hiding spot involved. The passport decoy wasn't much of a decoy since we hid it with a different, unrelated box, but several people did sign in so we know it did work to slow other teams down at the very least. Mission accomplished! =)

Speaking of those decoy boxes.... I've listed them on AQ for those who found them and want to record the find. (They are real letterboxes, with stamps, a logbook, and even clues to follow--though admittedly, the clues were poached. Being spies, however, we felt it was okay in this particular instance.) If you aren't sure if you found the decoy or real box, the decoy stamps didn't actually fit into the box of the official stamp-in sheet since we didn't know the correct sizes of the stamps ahead of time. If your stamp didn't fit the space for them correctly (either too small, too large, or the wrong ratio for the dimensions), it's a decoy.

There are some members of my team who would rather not have me reveal our diabolical methods to win the game. I'm telling you them for two reasons. One, I live in Seattle and there's a good chance I wouldn't make it to subsequent events. And two, the next time there is such an event, I wanted to encourage more subterfuge and deception among the teams. =) More paranoia. More backstabbing. More fun! To make it harder to fool people with decoys next time, and perhaps to get a few new rules added to the game next year. (It's always cool when you know there's a new rule--only because of your evil ideas.) Though I kind of hope that decoys aren't forbidden in the future. That was fun, and it would have been very interesting to see how things would have played out if several teams were out planting decoys. I tell you--we were extra careful looking for additional boxes behind the first ones we found and making sure we found the real box... just in case another team was planting decoys as well, we didn't want to fall for our own trick!

What a great time we had, though! Thanks Slick Kitty for putting the event on, even if we did stretch the rules to the fullest extent that we could get away with. But hey, we're spies. We never claimed to be honorable. ;o)


Anonymous said...

Sounds like so much fun!!! Thanks, Ryan, for writing such an enjoyable story about your day at Spy vs. Spy!


Kristin aka Trekkie Gal said...

I know one thing for sure, Ryan - I'd want you on my team, not working against me! :D

The Gillespie Tribe said...

You cheaters! You were caught!! Dishonor on your family! No wonder you won so easily, you only had to find two measly stamps by the time the game started. If only buffalo tony had shown up... then you wouldn't have such an easy time of it because John wouldn't have been the Mole. Oh well.. we had a good time anyway =o)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing all your high jinks since I was unable to attend it was fun to hear the tale! Sounds like a great time for all in attendance! Very proud of your stealth and deception!!!!!
Wendy In The Eastbay

Anonymous said...

Ryan even though you tried not to smile on saturday, I am glad to know you had such a great time! You are RUTHLESS! You invoked the spirit of the game as Slick Kitty wanted. Trust no one! As a witness to this mayhem and fun, I want to thank Slick Kitty for all the hard work and skilled thought she put into this event. As her conspirator, I can attest she put in lots of late nights to make this a great event. Here's to next year!


Fluffy Cow said...

"Until we crossed paths with the Salad Tongs"

Only in letterboxing...

Casa del Sol said...

I wanted to be there from the moment SK told me about the event! Well, at least I could be there is spirit- or in stamps, that is! Hope you found my 2 contrubitions and glad to hear it was such a fun event. Did you know that SK worried that no one would like the idea? Crazy, huh?

Mn8X said...

Too funny!
If you're anywhere near Ohio on June 27th, we'd love to have you on our team for the OHmazing Race!

Anonymous said...

You are oh, so deceptive, Ryan. You had this totally quiet, introspective demeanor yesterday at the Spy vs. Spy event. Yet you were practicing to deceive, nay you were deceiving, in so many, many evil ways. Well done.

Grumpy Grinch --> who figured you were just lying to throw the rest of us off...

Anonymous said...

The old "slow people down with other boxes' trick, eh?

We got involved in boxing too late to attend Natty Bumppo's Road Rally in PA where this strategy was used. Glad you had fun.

The Seekers 1108 said...

WOW !! What a wonderful time that was !! Thanks for sharing !

Scarab said...

I am shocked, appalled, discombobulated to hear of such underhanded, lowlife, scheming and conniving. How could you possibly have thought of committing such constabuless dastardnificence? Keep up the good work.

Nick Danger
P.S. I hear a rumor that there is a lbox planted "inside" the Spy Museum.

Anonymous said...

Now that is what I call letterboxing! Brilliant, simply brilliant. To all those involved, keep up the good work.


Investigator Francis Bacon

Anonymous said...

As one of Ryan's teammates for the Spy vs Spy event, I saw things a little differently than he. If you'd like to see what I have to say, check out my post on the California board.

Old Blue

HeathersHobby said...

You are sneaky, dishonest, and deceptive. If ever there is a spy event in Texas, I call dibbs for you on my team. I think we could work well together.