May 6, 2005

Teams compete as Scav Hunt craziness sets in

If your roommate, lab T.A., or significant other has disappeared in the last few days, do not despair. He or she has probably been swept up by the insanity that is the 19th annual Scav Hunt at the University.

Scav Hunt, arguably the world's largest scavenger hunt, has come to serve as a post-midterms, insanity-inducing celebration of spring fever on campus. Following the release of the list of 283 Scav Hunt items at midnight on Thursday, hundreds of students have been avoiding sleep, skipping classes, and forgetting homework to contribute to their team's efforts. This year's eight teams represent Breckinridge/Hoover House, Broadview, Burton-Judson, the Federation of Independent ScavHunt Teams (FIST), Max Palevsky, Pierce, Snell-Hitchcock, Shoreland, and the Vegans.

Each team competes against the rest to accumulate the greatest number of items on the Scav Hunt list. Meticulously created by a panel of judges, the list not only requires random searches for obscure objects, but also forces competitors to apply their intellect to decipher some of the items' meanings. This year's list includes items such as a shot glass of human sweat and a "thneed," as well as asking students to build a calliope and get circumcised. Some of the items are also events, including a party on the Quads on Friday evening, the Scavolympics Saturday afternoon, and a road trip with four or five people over the weekend. Judges assess teams' work on Sunday afternoon—or Judgment Day—for the diehard participants.

The 15 Scav Hunt judges have been preparing for the event since the beginning of the academic year, starting with a judge selection process in fall quarter. The judges have met weekly throughout winter quarter to decide what items to include, all of which were dreamed up by the judges themselves. During spring quarter, judges met once or twice a week and even more often as the Hunt's kick-off approached.

"We test just about every item we put on the list ourselves, so we have both built a bicycle for 12 people and detonated computers through nothing but their internal workings," said Joe Anderson, one of this year's judges. "For every ridiculous idea you see, there were about 10 others that were either too dangerous or too distasteful or too unfunny that we didn't want to put the University through it."

Teams have been preparing extensively for these four chaos-filled days, as well. Erica Pohnan, a second-year in the College and one of the Max Palevsky team captains, said her team's unique fundraising methods that began a few months ago with an event in which they duct-taped one of the other team captains, Marvin Lowenthal, a third-year. "People paid for ‘All You Can Tape in 30 Seconds' and about 15 minutes later, [Marvin] was the living duct tape mummy," Pohnan recounted. "It was cool because we actually made some money and we didn't have to do anything conventional and boring like selling Krispy Kremes and whatnot."

A favorite preparatory activity for many Scav Hunt teams is "dumpster diving" in which team members literally dive into dumpsters looking for random objects that could possibly be of use during the Hunt itself. When asked if her team had been participating in dumpster diving, second-year Shoreland team captain Johanna Solomon responded with an enthusiastic, "Hell yeah! We got a bathroom sink yesterday!"

While Scav Hunt holds a different meaning for different people, most seem to agree that it serves as an enjoyable four-day escape for those involved, accompanied by a general sentiment of "insanity and innovation," according to Pohnan. More specifically, Solomon sees it as a "break from the normal ‘life of the mind' hard work that goes on here." FIST team member and fourth-year in the College, Ashley Meyer, calls Scav Hunt the ultimate form of escapism: "Scav Hunt is the four days when you decide you're sick of the outside world and you just want to escape into a world of enthusiasm and nerdiness and wackiness and absurdity."