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Edward Hasbrouck on "The Amazing Race 2"

Episode 8: Wednesday, 24 April 2002

Hong Kong SAR (China) - Sydney (Australia) - Adelaide (Australia) - Coober Pedy (Australia) - Breakaways National Park (Australia)

Learning to say, "Which way...?" in Australian

In this week's double episode of "The Amazing Race 2", we see the importance of being willing to ask for directions. There are lots of reasons -- including luck -- why the remaining teams made it this far. But any team that tried to be self-reliant, and find its own way without assistance, would very likely have been eliminated this week, if not sooner.

It's strange, perhaps, that this lesson came in Australia: It's a country almost as obsessed as the USA with "rugged individualism" and the myth of the "self-made man". It's also an economically developed country where a sort of English is spoken (though one of the challenges in the race actually depended upon understanding Aussie slang, or finding someone who could translate it into American), where a traveler might be forgiven for assuming that they'd be able to find their way around on their own.

It's a pair of paradoxes: one of the essential elements of capable and confident traveling is a willingness to depend on others. And stopping, even going out of one's way, to ask for directions, may be the best way to get somewhere faster, even in a race. The key travel skills at issue, I think, are humility, trust (especially trust in the goodwill of strangers), and patience.

The often-true stereotype of men as less willing to ask directions than women, as well as the sexism prevalent worldwide that makes men and women alike more willing to help a strange woman than a strange man, albeit for different reasons, are the major reasons I expected the teams of two women to do better than the men in "The Amazing Race" -- just as women, despite their greater fearfulness about traveling alone, often find they have an easier time than men as travelers because they ask for, and are offered, more help from people along the way. (Of course, they also receive a greater measure of sexual harassment than men generally get.)

How were these skills at asking for help on display this week in "The Amazing Race 2"?

Gary and Dave were eliminated at the end of this week's double episode, largely because they got impatient and abandoned one task (hunting for an opal in a pile of rocks in an underground mine) for an alternative (golf -- a game neither of them had ever played -- in a grass-less desert), rather than completing what they had already begun. It appears that there wasn't enough suspense in the non-elimination legs of "The Amazing Race" to maximize viewership. So CBS combined a non-elimination leg with the elimination leg that followed into a two-hour broadcast this week, and will do so again with the final two episodes. That will make the season finale a two-hour broadcast, with the final three teams, on Wednesday, 15 May 2002. See you again next week, en route to New Zealand!

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