Puzzling World - calming teenage angst since 1973

Wednesday, 12 October 2022

- By Ben Fardey, BUZZWORDS

As any parent will testify, teenagers are certainly the hardest demographic to impress.

Tailoring the family holiday to include activities that float your teen’s boat is a thankless task in the face of constant indifference.  Even in the face of the most stimulating of environments, Son Number 1’s mastery of apathy rarely ceases to astonish or frustrate.

Add a younger brother into the mix, who at 9 is yet to experience his elder’s hormonal irritability, and factor in the altogether different needs of their thirty-something Mum and Dad, and striking the right balance is always going to present a challenge.

The morning was spent hiking the Mount Iron track, and enjoying the astonishing vistas the walk has to offer.  Son Number 1’s initial outrage at having to tackle the 5Km round-trip (not to mention the 240 metre climb) abated gradually as the morning progressed, although an intended cease in communications was made clear from the outset by the ubiquitous headphones adorning his head as he grudgingly left the comfort of the warm hire car.

By the time we were back at ground level and in search of sustenance, it appeared he’d forgiven us for his morning ordeal, or that we were at least on probation.

This temporary respite was brought to an abrupt end, however, when Son Number 1 learned that the rest of his family had decided (whilst Daft Punk was filling his ears) that the afternoon was also going to be spent away from the warmth of our rented bach.  Tyrants that we are, we were going to force some more family fun on him at Puzzling World.

Following a leisurely hour touring the weird and wonderful, which ranged from optical illusions and holograms to mind bending puzzles and an “impossible” room that seemed to defy gravity itself, Son number 2 enthusiastically declared that the site’s 3D maze should be attempted in teams to add some spice to the proceedings.  The losers would be responsible for doing the dishes after dinner that evening.  Instantly, Son number 2 partnered up with Mum, leaving Dad with face-ache. 

Having forgotten the headphones this time, and forced into conversation, Son Number 1’s competitive streak gradually emerged.  The aches and pains of the morning’s climb were forgotten, as was the feigned apathy.  Before I knew it I was breaking a sweat just to keep up.  The object of the challenge was to traverse the 1.5KM of maze passages and over-bridges, photograph all four coloured corners of the maze, and then reach the exit before Mum and Son number 2.

Despite a healthy start, having reached the first three corners reasonably comfortably, we began to realize that we were in trouble.  The enemy had fought back to match our score whilst we’d wandered around aimlessly, and in-fighting had broken out in our camp.

We finally located the last corner, but not before the opposition had done so.  It was now a fight to see who could locate the exit first.

Quite unexpectedly, we came to a gate marked “Emergency Exit – This is not the Exit to the Maze”.

For the first time that day, united in moral cowardice, we were on the same wavelength.  In an unspoken bond of agreement, we pushed open the exit that wasn't an exit, safe in the knowledge that it wouldn’t be us doing the bloody dishes that night, to be greeted by Son Number 2 and his Mum, glorying smugly in victory from their lofty position on the moral high ground.

It was almost enough to make him forget that he’d just spent the last two hours accidentally having fun...