Thursday, January 6, 2011

Engaged! The Story

Sharon and I had discussed marriage for a while and had even gone to look at rings together, so you might say she was expecting a proposal soon. I of course wanted it to be a complete surprise for her, even if she was expecting it. How would that be possible? That's right: Inception...I had to plant the idea that marriage had never occurred to her. By the time I was done, she wouldn't even know if she was in a dream world or not.

Actually, I just used good old fraud.

 A couple weeks before Christmas, I sent Sharon a link to a website with details about a Sydney-wide scavenger hunt held on Christmas Day. The website,, described how this was an event now in its third year, started initially for all the international backpackers in Sydney who don't have anyone to celebrate Christmas with. A colleague of mine had told me about it and I thought it would be fun since we had nothing else going on. We signed up using the team name "The Huntsman" in honor of Sharon's encounter with Australia's king of the spiders.

This was a completely digital scavenger hunt. Your starting location would be emailed to you the day before the hunt; at the start, a clue would be emailed leading you to a destination where you checked in using Foursquare, a location app; you would then be emailed your next clue if you were at the correct place. Oh, and there were also a bunch of different routes, so no two teams would have the exact same starting point or path to the finish. And there were prizes and an after party at the final location. Pretty cool, right?

We were told via email to be at Sydney's Central train station at 3:00 PM for the start of the hunt. We made it there a couple minutes early and soon received our first clue:

"The Huntsman,
A clue for you:
Take a stroll to the oldest house in Sydney.
-Sydney Scavenger

After some time plugging away on our smartphones to identify where the oldest house is located (turns out there are many competing "oldest houses" in Sydney) we determined it was the Cleveland House in Surry Hills. So off we raced -- well, I attempted to walk since it was hot and I was wearing flip flops, but Sharon is extremely competitive and made me race as well. We got to the Cleveland House and I checked in on Foursquare. A few minutes later we got our next clue.

"Where artful dodgers serve their time."

Our sleuthing led us to the National Art School, which in an earlier time was known as the Darlinghurst Gaol and hosted several public hangings.

The next clue, "Entry to the dragon", was trickier. It obviously had something to do with Sydney's Chinatown, but we had no idea what. As we made our way to the central part of Chinatown, we saw it: the gates to Chinatown, guarded by two dragon statues. We checked in and received our next email.

"Rub him for luck to avoid the ills of the building he guards."

This was solved quickly, as a few weeks prior we had passed the answer to this riddle and I had stopped to read about it. In front of the oldest hospital in Sydney is a bronze statue of a boar. Rubbing its snout is good luck and keeps you healthy. There we received our next clue.

"Lodging between continents."

Sharon figured this one out right away. "It must be the Intercontinental Hotel," she said, which was only a few blocks away. As we entered the hotel, I said I had to use the restroom and Sharon decided to sit in the lobby and give her feet a rest. Instead of using the restroom, I went to the front desk and checked us in (literally this time) to the hotel.

I went back to where Sharon was sitting and told her I asked the concierge about the scavenger hunt and he told me this was the end. The after party was also being held in the hotel and he gave me a key.

"Let's go up," I said.

"We can't go up," Sharon exclaimed, "we haven't gotten a clue yet! We just can't go up there!"

"No, no, it's fine," I assured her, leading us to the elevator bank and pressing the button. Sharon protested on the ride up to the 20th floor and all the way to the room number marked on the key. I knocked on the door for effect. It was quiet.

"No answer.... Oh well, screw it," I told her and opened the door with the key, letting her walk in first. We were greeted by a giant window overlooking the Harbour Bridge, Opera House, and Botanical Gardens. There was a bottle of champagne and a plate of chocolates on the desk. Sharon was utterly confused, and as she turned around to look at me, I got down on one knee with the ring in my hand.

She started half-laughing, half-crying, still not really getting how we had gone from a scavenger hunt to being in a hotel room with me on one knee holding a diamond ring. "Sharon, will you marry me?" I asked. "Of course I'll marry you," she said through tears.

I finally confessed. "All of this was for you. The entire scavenger hunt was fake."

"What?! How is that possible?!"

I told her there was no reference from a colleague. I bought the website domain and put the website together. I had done research over the previous weeks to determine the clues and locations and then sent all the email clues to myself the day before.

A view from our room.

"A little champagne for the lady?"
"Well, now I know how you solved all the clues so quickly," Sharon said, laughing. "I was thinking you were really good at this."

Sharon had actually bought the deception a little too well. In the days leading up to the scavenger hunt she kept saying we should get more people on our team. She emailed friends the link to the website, asking if they wanted to join us, and even posted it on Facebook. "Crap," I had thought, "what if other people decide to come?" But I didn't want to say anything for fear of making her suspicious. Fortunately no one else could make it, a key benefit of doing the hunt on Christmas.

During the scavenger hunt, we'd pass people on the street looking at their phones and Sharon would yell, "I bet they're doing the scavenger hunt too! We have to hurry, Adam!" I played along the whole time, but could hardly keep from grinning.

Once the scavenger hunt was explained, I told Sharon there was one more surprise: Earlier in the week I had stolen some of her clothes and dropped them off at the hotel earlier in the week. They were now hanging in the closet of our room, and she'd need them for dinner at a restaurant on the harbor later in the evening. 

So we drank a little bubbly, looked out the window at a million dollar view, and laughed about the day before moseying on down to the restaurant, which sat directly across from the Opera House.

And that's where fraud will get you.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. If you did this for me for some reason, I would have ended up marrying you too.

  3. haha. I love it. Nicely done!


  4. When you break this story down, Adam came up with a ridiculous idea and Sharon was completely gung-ho about it... Which is exactly why I love you guys :) Congrats!!

    Though you really missed an opportunity by not getting this ring -

  5. OMG this is so amazing! Congrats! Much love to you both xo

  6. ADAM, you are the man!! Way to go! you have ultimately raised the bar for all future engagements!! :-)

  7. How cleverly devised and executed.