Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hedge mazes and iPhones

Melbourne is surrounded by hedge maze attractions; you know, the big things like they had in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire but with fewer dragons. This weekend we had visitors and so trekked out to one of these. These are great activities for the kids. Basically, they can run off on their own and unlike your normal predisposition on such things the actual point is that they get lost and have to work their way out.

For parents you are either going to do take it seriously or not. Common sense would dictate making that decision prior to entering a maze. Sadly, you usually decide on this after you have stepped in the maze and are yourselves, lost. So there I was, along with a prominent economist, both realising that we were too busy talking about other stuff to have paid attention where we were going. It could take a good half hour to navigate our way out.

Fortunately, I decided on another path. I had a newly purchased iPhone 3G and so decided to use the GPS to locate us on an actual aerial shot of the maze. My colleague had a Blackberry that did a similar thing but the screen shot was too small. For me, the screen shot was barely readable but didn't quite have the detail to help us get out. The technology failed us. That said, I was able to see whether it was possible to book a nice lunch at a warm restaurant as we trapsed through. Turned out it wasn't but I could at least multi-task.

We eventually emerged from the maze. There was a tower at the end so we could see what else is happening. There were some adults in a 'clearing' and they signalled our attention. They then held up a child and asked us if we owned him. Turned out that it was my 7 year old son. (He had got really lost and used the age-old strategy of 'looking lost with a hint of distress' to secure help). So after a thumbs up I re-entered the maze to locate the clearing. Of course, that was as hard as finding your way out. This time I took another child who had paid attention with me so it was a bit quicker.

And the moral of this story is ... hedge mazes are fun but current technology isn't going to save you just yet.