|Amidst the madding crowd: these Vikings don't mess around.|
Saturday night, my husband and I found ourselves scavenging around the quaint borough of Narberth with about 100 other people – in Viking helmets.
“The next time someone asks us what we’re doing, we have to come up with a better answer than a scavenger hunt,” noted one of our teammates, who chose to remain anonymous. “Let’s say we’re going to a swingers’ party.”
But even one of former IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn's orgies would’ve looked staid compared to the Second Annual Narberth Scavenger Hunt – though our party may have seemed, to outsiders, like a Minnesota Vikings’ tailgate gone awry.
“Sometimes you have to give them a little tap,” said Tom Rickards, one of the hunt organizers, gently flicking a plastic Viking horn to make it light up. He was pulling helmets from a gigantic box and tossing the glowing monstrosities to friends gathered in his backyard. For, in addition to raising two, elementary school-aged children and pursuing full-time teaching careers, Tom and his wife, Cyndi, are also our local social directors.
“Cyndi’s way of dealing with a crisis is to throw a party,” Tom once wisely observed. And it’s true. During Hurricane Irene, the Rickards, clad in tropical shirts, beckoned in guests from the driving rain and handed round beers and, of course, “Hurricanes,” amidst flickering candles and reggae. Afterward, we all slogged home to sleep with our families in our basements or foyers or anywhere else deemed safe from falling trees.
And Saturday night’s fund-raiser drew on all of Cyndi’s party-planning skills. Eighteen teams were competing in the scavenger hunt she’d been organizing for weeks, the winning pot and raffle proceeds of more than $2,000 going to a neighbor battling cancer.
Despite the gravity of the cause, many participating Norsemen abandoned themselves to inebriation and tottered about the borough seeking Cyndi’s erudite clues – such as “Hello Kitty and noodles” – and 12 mini, plastic “Narb Vikings” she and others had hidden around town.
“Five minute warning,” Cyndi called from her deck, corralling the beer-sodden crowd to review rules. “Teams must stay together,” she explained. “No dividing and conquering. Nothing but feet. No scooters allowed.”
She also reminded us about the importance of sportsmanship, noting, “We do have an official sports psychologist on hand, if you’re feeling like you want to cheat.” Apparently, some participants may have, allegedly, employed some unsavory tactics last year, though no one will go on the record. Cyndi also took this pre-game moment to describe the “100-point chicken” that would not only offer a major score boost but would also require the finders to “bedazzle” and return it for next year’s hunt. And we were off.
Now, I must say that my team was at a distinct disadvantage since I had appointed myself blogger in chief and was exercising most of my faculties – at least those left after a couple of cold frosties – not on solving riddles but on taking notes. Furthermore, we were also unwilling to do extra-point shots at any of the several Narberth bars.
We did, successfully, sort out the clue, “We are 11 minutes to 30th Street Station from this spot,” managing to snap a picture of the Viking taped to a Septa sign without another team spying us – a proud moment. But “black dog + mosaic tiles = Viking” kind of stumped us, as did the clue, “Shit! My back hurts!”
In addition, one of my teammates kept removing his horns.
“Put on your hat,” I scolded.
“It’s a helmet,” he corrected.
Even Cyndi’s husband wouldn’t cooperate, when we bumped into him during the hunt. “Buy me a drink,” Tom said, “and I’ll give you a clue.” Then he furiously backpedaled. “My wife didn’t tell me anything,” he said, looking genuinely nervous.
“I’ll bet we came in last,” one of my teammates remarked, as we sat around afterward, sipping beers and warming up in McShea’s. “I can’t see anyone doing any worse than us.”
“Your blogging skills are much stronger than your hunting skill set,” Cyndi informed me, via email, on Monday. “You were DFL with 110 points” – in other words, dead f--king last.
So team Livin’ the Dream didn’t do so hot. For perspective, Narberth Confidential – a corny name, if you’ll permit me to note – won with a total of 590 points. I’m hoping the winners did a boatload of shots. I’m hoping their hangovers were wicked.
But we’re not intimidated. My teammates have agreed to dedicate the next year to immersing ourselves in Narberth culture.
“I’m gonna know who the shopkeeps are by name, what their fancies are, skeletons in their closets,” our friend decided. “Or we’ll just break into their houses.
“Also, next year we're gonna get some chin straps,” he concluded, “cause my helmet kept slipping off.”