On the Road Again…

Another Toastmasters talk, this one my third. I thought the material was better, or at least more humorous, than the previous two. But my delivery sucked. In retrospect, I should have rehearsed another day.

I got laughs but there were three mechanical problems with my delivery

  • Flow stalled in a few places
  • I ran over my time limit — 8:36 for a 5:00 to 7:00 talk
  • The intro was a bit wooden

All in all, I was pleased with the material and may revisit the subject again.


I have a confession.
I am addicted to hashing.

Now, I said hash-ing — not not hash-ish.

I have no interest in the latter.

The former, however, has opened up new worlds.

Hashing is a mixture of athleticism and sociability — it’s an exhilaratingly fun combination of running, orienteering, and partying, where bands of harriers chase hares on a 4 to 6 mile trail through town, country, jungle, and desert, all in search of exercise, camaraderie, and good times.

Hashing, as we know it today, started back in 1938 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Several Brits started a hare & hounds running group.

They named the group after their meeting place, the local English Club, aka the “Hash House.”

Hash House Harrier runs were patterned after the traditional British public school paper chase. A “hare” would be given a short head start to blaze a trail, marking his devious way with shreds of paper, soon to be pursued by a shouting pack of “harriers.” Only the hare knew where he was going . . . the harriers followed his marks to stay on trail.

Apart from the excitement of chasing down the wily hare, solving the hare’s marks and reaching the end was its own reward, for there, thirsty harriers would find a tub of iced-down beer.

Today, there are thousands of Hash House Harrier clubs worldwide.

I started hashing while working in India and Hong Kong. Though my home hash is right here in Silicon Valley, I mostly hashed overseas back then.

My favorite hash is in Singapore, an all mens hash that runs on Tuesday nights. It’s a big pack of between 70 and 100 strong.

But no matter where you hash, here’s roughly what you can expect.

At the designated time, the pack starts showing up. And, like dogs at the park, we ritually mill around to get re-aquatinted and make new friends. It’s networking at its most primitive level.

The hare or hares will declare they are ‘off’ and start down the trail. Many hares mark their trails with bleached wheat flour though the Singapore hash uses toilet tissue. It turns out that equatorial jungles devour the tissue in a matter of days. Tissue also doesn’t wash away during the rains. And it always rains in Singapore. The hares are given a twenty to thirty minute head start and then…

the pack sets to ground.

[bicycle horn]

Not all hashes use bicycle horns but the Singapore does. Scores and scores of horns honking their way through the jungle. It’s pitch black and the sound of horns are all you to go by at times.

I love the Tuesday Singapore hash because they _do_ run through the jungle. There’s not been a tiger in Singapore for over a hundred years. Yet, as I scramble up a muddy bank or past the giant elephant ears bigger than me, I can almost hear the voice of Steve Irwin, crocodile hunter.

Look at that tiger. Beautiful animal. Sleek. Powerful. See how he glides through the jungle in search of his prey, they ungainly hasher.

[bicycle horn]

Not that a bicycle horn would fend off a tiger, but it couldn’t hurt.

At long last, the back of the pack straggles in but we’re only half finished.

For every run, there’s a circle.

Sometimes, the circle is right there, at the spot where the run ends and other times it convenes at a nearby eatery. But no matter, the pack will circle around the “Religious Advisor”. You may think of him (or her) as the law giver.

The Religious Advisor may tell a joke, or make announcements but his main purpose is to deal with hash crimes. Misdemeanors against the pack. All the while the thirsty hounds help themselves to food and beverage.

Since the only “rule” in hashing is “there are no rules”, a crime boils down to drawing attention to your self.

Some Common crimes:

* First time hasher
* Visiting hasher
* Getting lost
* Finishing First
* Finishing Last
* New Shoes

If I can give you one bit of advice: never, ever, ever were new shoes to a hash. Ever.

Back at my home hash, the Silicon Valley Hash House Harriers, I was given my name during one such ‘trial’. Every Hasher eventually gets a ‘hash name’. Thereafter, it is a crime to use one’s street name.

I had been hashing for two years and had avoided the naming trial.

It was my dog, Truffles. Truffles did me in.

Truffles is a devout hasher.

It was a long, hot run through the Stanford campus.

We straggled in to the finish.

Truffles tongue flapped like a giant pink spatula, slinging taffy strings of slobber on everyone. Not pretty. Not pretty at all. There was going to be trouble.

“A most Heinous crime has been committed against the pack.”

The circle of hashers jeered in mock contempt.

“You! You and the mutt. In the circle!”

The pack went nuts. They were wild dogs on the verge of a kill, maddened with blood lust and ice cold beer. Justice would be meted out in fair portions tonight.

One by one, victims of Truffy’s slobber attacks testified. The evidence was overwhelming. Attempts to defend yourself only draw more attention, so don’t do it.

It’s how the wildebeest must feel having been singled out by a pride of lions.

After much singing and several toasts of beer, I walked out of the circle to be known evermore, worldwide as


It could have been worse. Much worse.

I’ve made friends around the world through the hash. I only wish I had started fifteen years earlier. Getting started is really simple. Just show up. All you need is a sense of humor. But leave your new shoes at home.