“Everybody ready to go?” I ask as we head out to the car, with our picnic dinner, for our annual trek to the Stony Hill Farms corn maze in Chester, NJ. This is the one car trip that takes no prodding to get everyone out of the house and on our way. The hour-long drive seems to go by quickly in anticipation of the challenge ahead of us – a new 10-square acre maze of 8-foot high corn stalks beckons us.
Once we park in the large field area surrounded by pumpkins, we quickly find our friends that we meet up with each year for this fall ritual. “Nice, you guys brought a table cloth,” my wife notices as we join our friends at the old wooden picnic benches alongside the farm’s store. “Sorry, we started eating”, was the appropriate response. Eating and some small talk occur, but we all know why we are here and what we have come to accomplish. “OK, it is 6:20, we will see you back here,” Debbie tells the girls. We always try to tackle the maze adults versus children. And we are off to face the maze!
As we go to battle with the maze, here are the lessons we learned this year:
- Goal Setting – Before one undertakes any task, one must understand the task ahead and the expected result. We need to navigate the maze and leave the maze through the exit. The truth be told, over the years that we have been doing this; we have exited through the entrance more times than the exit, and sometimes more than once in the same year. Each time, we were excited when we thought that we conquered the maze, only to have our smiles wiped away when greeted with the arrow and the sign that says “Entrance”.
- Avoid Distractions – Like any challenge, there are always things to distract you. In our case, it is the conversations that we have amongst ourselves. We are happy to see our friends and wander about happy to talk, which mean that we often pass the same spots over and over again.
- Focus – There is a simple task, yet not easy at hand, finding the correct way to the exit. By blabbing away, we have no focus. We are having a lot of fun, but every corner we turn looks like the last corner we turned and similar to the one before that. “Let’s try this way” cannot be considered focusing on finding our way to the exit.
- Planning – The maze is setup in a specific pattern displayed at the start of the maze. This year, the theme was the 350th birthday of New Jersey. “If we go into the maze and make this turn, we can go over the first bridge,” our friend notices. However, after the first step into the maze, the patterns that we should be looking for are quickly forgotten. Different sections have different colored ribbons to help let you know your progress. We, apparently, enjoyed the white section, as we visited there for a very long time.
- Be Persistent – We are in the maze for the long haul, knowing full well that we will keep on trying until 9:00 pm when some young person will come up to us and politely ask us if we need help, gentle grabbing us by the elbow and escorting us out. At that point, we have raised our fists, damning the corn maze and shouting, “We will get you next year!”
- Be Humble – Along the way there are a few spots where you can stick your undecipherable map under a red shield that will display the maze for you. In life, usually someone has gone before you, so it is OK to be humble and ask for guidance. When it is raining, this stop is impossible, as the paper rips due to being wet, or sticks under the red shield. This year, we humbled ourselves and used the shield for guidance.
At 7:50 we emerge from the corn maze, we made it! High fives all around! We text the girls and get no response. We go into the store and we treat ourselves to our victory hot cider and fresh donuts. 8:45 rolls around and we finally get a text from the girls asking if we can get their consolation cider and donuts for them. At 9:05, escorted by their elbows, the girls appear at the entrance with their fists raised high yelling, “Damn you corn maze; we’ll get you next year!”