Scavenger Hunt Redux

Well, I’ve had at least a nominal chance to regain my strength, though following the scavenger hunt with a four-year-old’s birthday party the next day probably isn’t particularly conducive to recovery. I had planned to recount the events of the hunt, but after a few paragraphs, I realized that it read exceedingly dull, akin to an interminable vacation slide show in narrative form. At one point I had toyed with the idea of making a running commentary on the game’s progress in real time, a format which might have avoided the problems of the current version; however, carrying around a several-thousand-dollar laptop while running at breakneck speed around the city (and, presumably, searching for WiFi hubs) didn’t seem too sensible an idea. And then our persistent inability to make a reliable Internet connection at Collin’s apartment precluded even periodic updates; the idea of connecting the computer directly to the modem — as opposed to trying in vain to get the AirPort connection to work properly — didn’t occur to anyone until much later in the day.

Still, as walking around is still extremely painful (well, in the exaggerated sense those of us who make a living largely seated tend to adopt, not in the more literal sense, say, a professional pugilist might employ), I thought writing something would be at least a moderately productive use of time. Pam pointed out how little of my ’blog is spent telling people how wonderful she is, and suggested that as a suitable topic. What a fantastic idea, I thought. (Hey, she’s probably reading this, and I do live with her; cut me some slack.) After deep contemplation, however, I decided that — at least at this point in time — it didn’t really fit with the tone of what I’d been writing lately. That, and I’d spent every spare moment during the hunt shouting that very sentiment to anyone within earshot (and I’ll hear none claiming otherwise).

So perhaps I’ll simply relay a few high points and impressions of Saturday’s event. The full story I will happily recount directly to those expressing sincere interest, but otherwise it’ll have to wait for the previously mentioned documentary video. Julia Ames (who, along with last-minute but enthusiastic addition Joe Orsinger, chronicled the event) is producing said video, and she’ll hopefully manage to put something together with more expediency than I was last year. As to that, I’ve always felt that most of all, I slighted the efforts of my (then-pregnant) co-videographer, Hillary Tisdale, in still not having anything substantive to show.

The splitting-up strategy really paid off in allowing us to cover a much larger area of the city than had we remained together. But even more than that, the most significant lesson learned in last year’s contest was the overwhelming benefit of the bicycle: greater speed than walking, greater accessibility than driving. This year’s team took that lesson to heart, putting three of our competitors — Collin, Maureen, and Matt — on cycles (there was some thought of using Collin’s scooter, but the consensus was that it didn’t offer the mobility advantages of the bikes). This year, the bikes provided yet another advantage, in that several streets had been closed to vehicular traffic because of the scheduled antiwar protests. (Frankly, the protests didn’t cause as much of a problem as I’d anticipated, other than some delays reaching our initial meeting point.)

There were downsides to the plan, of course. We sacrificed a significant amount of the “group bonding” value of the event by being separated for the bulk of the day — and for the most exciting, invigorating portion at that, the hunting itself; Laura Menge, one of last year’s team members, opted to participate again, but on a team focusing more on group enjoyment than victory. There’s an undeniable appeal to that attitude; in fact, some teams chose simply to spend the day sitting and drinking with their teammates. While that approach (and the resultant negative score) is undoubtedly excessive, they did enjoy one another’s company — though given their condition at the end of the day, whether they’ll remember any of it is open to debate. There’s also something to be said for not knowing what you’re doing; it sounds strange, but the conflicts and squabbles last year added some excitement that was — for good or ill — missing this time around.

I think we all took pride in the amount of money we raised for the event — taking not only the prize for the overall event but that for the greatest amount brought in (just over $3,000). But any thoughts as to the charitable nature of the event vanished once the hunt began. Our philosophy was what came before was for the kids; once the clue books were released, it was all about the competition. I know I made several tongue-in-cheek remarks to that effect before the camera. I’ve always wondered how people who know they’re on camera — on shows like Survivor, for example — can act so stupidly; I still wonder, but at least I know I’m one of those people. We’ll see how I end up coming across in the final edit — If I’m to look like a self-aggrandizing jerk, I hope it’s more along the lines of a Richard Hatch than any of the feeble imitators who followed him.

In the end, the victory felt a little underwhelming in comparison with last year. First, arrogance notwitstanding, we did know our strategy — not to mention our attitude — was a winning one. Second, I think the prolonged separation led to a lower level of team identification. And finally, the organizers took much less time to calculate scores; there wasn’t time to build up anticipation (it probably didn’t hurt that last year, the preliminary tally had ABC-Ya-Later in second place, making the eventual turnaround that much more spectacular). Still and all, I wouldn’t forgo the experience. However I may gripe at the shortcomings, it was still a thrilling, invigorating, and exhilarating way to spend a spring Saturday. There is no doubt whatsoever that I’ll be first in line to go again next year. Thanks to (Make-a-Wish Mid-Atlantic COO) Jared Cohen and the Make-a-Wish Foundation — and especially to ServiceCorps and all of our donors — for allowing us the opportunity to participate.

One final observation: A perhaps unintended though convenient benefit to serving beer in bottles, as opposed to glasses, is that when someone — hypothetically, an overenthusiastic scavenger hunt winner — tips a bottle over — onto, again hypothetically, the carpet at event host Maggiano’s Little Italy — it releases its contents at least somewhat gradually, allowing opportunity for partial recovery. That’s all I’ll say about that.


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