—Sunday, March 18, 2012—
I love a good scavenger hunt. They’re filled with surprises, you have to piece together clues and at the end of it, you usually hope to win a prize. I love the competitive aspect of it too. This scavenger hunt was unlike any I had ever been on because the prize at the end was finding out who my date was for the day.
A little background: A woman name Lea found me on OkCupid and had no photos other than a curiously seductive shot of her neck. She asked me some questions and I found her to be intriguing. She had read the OHD site and, for a change of pace, asked if she could plan a date for me, the guy who was always planning dates.
Specifically, she wanted to plan a scavenger hunt for us. She assured me that she wasn’t ugly and I agreed to her proposition quickly. I was looking forward to having a date planned by someone else and the mystery of it all was more than intriguing.
Everything was set for that Sunday and as I got going with my day, I texted Lea to find out where I was meeting her. She told me to meet her at 23rd Street & 8th Avenue, with a camera and a Sharpie, for our scavenger hunt.
I arrived at the desired intersection 10 minutes early and texted Lea to tell her that I was there and also, what I was wearing, so that she could recognize me.
She wrote back:
Lea OkC: im actually running late – could you do me a huge favor? can you go to cvs for me and pick up some developed photos for me? ill pay you back 2:53 PM
I thought it was a bit odd to ask a favor of me so immediately, but it didn’t concern me too much. I was a pretty agreeable guy, so I walked into the CVS as I fired off the following text.
Me: The CVS at this intersection? Sure. What name are they under? 2:54 PM
I didn’t know what her last name was, so I was looking forward to the reveal.
Lea OkC: Yes. Yours. 2:55 PM
What the devil? That sly fox! No shit. I was but a pawn.
Lea had put the photos under my name, which meant that she intended for me to pick them up, and in turn, that the photos were the first item on the scavenger hunt.
She was not running late. She was not going to be there at all. Lea was sending me on a scavenger hunt to find her.
Oh man, this was good. I was excited. I was all smiles.
I gave the cashier my name and she rung me up. Ten dollars later and I was over near the entrance going through the pictures. I was sure they were in some kind of order, so I looked at the negatives to get them right without really taking much stock in their content. For the the sake of story though, let’s start at the beginning.
The rules were simple. I texted Lea to let her know that I had the photos, understood my mission and was ready to go. She fired the gun, so to speak (it was a text), and we were off.
My first task was to get coffee and gum and I knew for a fact that a Brooklyn Bagel Company was just a few doors north so I ran there. I purchased a small coffee and then went next door to Rite Aid for gum, which was a quick find in the checkout line.
As I photographed the gum and coffee, an employee named Raphael asked me if I was a photographer. “No,” I said. “Just doing it for fun.” He then engaged me in conversation about photography for a few minutes, saying that his friend was really into it and that you need to have a good eye to be successful. He told me I must have had a good eye. I didn’t bother explaining the scavenger hunt. I was more focused on my next task.
I knew I could find “a RIDICULOUS pair of glasses” in the Rite Aid and I could get a Snapple there too, both things on the list. In the back of the store, I found some funny glasses, took mine off, put those on and snapped a picture. Text sent.
I then ran to the cold beverage section and got a peach Snapple because that was all they had. Gross.
Realizing that Raphael could be my stranger for the picture I had to take with a stranger, I searched throughout the store for him. Though I couldn’t find Raphael, I was able to find a raspberry Snapple, which I greatly preferred to peach. I also realized that I wasn’t wearing my glasses, so I ran back to where I’d found the RIDICULOUS ones and sure enough, my glasses were still sitting on the shelf since I had never put them back on my face. I was lucky no one had tried to buy them.
As I was about to give up on searching for Raphael, I spotted him again. With no explanation, I asked if I could take a picture with him. He was delighted to oblige. He needed a couple minutes to finish something and then we took our picture. He told me he wanted to see it on a billboard one day, him and “Peter Parker” — which was his name for me. I could only hope a blog post would suffice!
I got back in line and bought my Snapple. I took some pictures and sent some texts. I was ahead in the hunt!
My next next challenge was to “take a beautiful photograph” and though I doubted my photography skills, I knew that I could probably find some enchanting scenery if I walked south down 8th Avenue towards the West Village. The West Village was quaint as shit.
At the NW corner of 22nd & 8th, I came upon Chelsea Florist and saw that the block it led to was filled with trees and a big, old Lutheran church. Between the street and the flower shop, I figured I could take a beautiful photograph and get a bouquet of flowers for Lea, another item on the scavenger hunt. Demanding of her, I know, but I appreciated her confidence.
I took a bunch of pictures but the only real contender ended up being from the florist.
With my flowers in hand, I ran to the closest bar/restaurant I could find to take a shot. I don’t even remember the name of the place and I cannot figure it out now for the life of me. Maybe it’s no longer there. Anyway, the place was basically empty when I walked in and right up to the bar. I felt very self-conscious about standing at a bar and ordering a shot, but because of the task at hand, I was able to do it with an unwavering confidence. I didn’t even make a joke out of it! If anything, I looked like a man who needed a bit of courage before his date, hence the flowers. The bartender served me a shot of tequila and I downed it while he ran my card. Another item checked off.
I didn’t know exactly where to go next, but I figured that the closer I was to the West Village, the more stuff I would run into. Sure enough, on my walk down 8th Avenue, I finally came across some remnants from the previous night’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
I went into a couple places looking for temporary tattoos, but it wasn’t until I stepped into a Ricky’s, right near where I spotted the hungover balloons, that I found what I was looking for and they had a number of options. I chose a traditional mom/heart piece to compliment the tattoo tribute to my mother already on my right arm because I took scavenger hunt temporary tattoos very seriously. I paid for the item and then went next door to buy a bottle of water so I could apply it.
Outside of Ricky’s, I used the shelter of a phone booth as my own personal tattoo parlor. Unfortunately, the mom tattoo didn’t take and I had wasted both time and money as Lea checked more items off her list. I went back into Ricky’s and bought some Spider-Man tattoos. This time around, they actually stayed on my arm, which made sense for the wall-climbing web-slinger. Peter Parker had my back.
One block down from Ricky’s was Empire Cake, where I was sure to find some kind of dessert. I stepped inside and surveyed my options. Since I had no idea what Lea liked in desserts, I decided on four different mini-cakes. I was hoping the variety would provide at least one that she would enjoy.
At this point, I was really racing to collect as many checkmarks as possible. We were almost an hour and a half into the scavenger hunt and Lea and I were neck and neck. I didn’t want to lose! I got down to 14th Street and took a left towards Union Square. I needed to play an instrument in a store and I knew of a Guitar Center over that way.
En route to Guitar Center, I was able to buy Lea a “cheesy NYC tourist gift” and take a video of a busker.
I was so close to the finish line! All that was left was to play an instrument in a store, which I knew I could do, and to help a stranger. I kept my eyes out for humans in need as I walked to Guitar Center, but didn’t find anyone before entering the monstrous musical megastore.
Inside, I went straight for the acoustic guitar room and selected a small, unassuming guitar that the sales associates certainly wouldn’t care about. I then tried to inconspicuously film myself playing guitar. I was only somewhat in frame on my first take, so I set the camera on a different chair and tried again. The video came out grainy and dark, but it got the job done. [Sadly, the second video was beyond Vimeo’s size requirements.]
As I exited the store and checked my phone, I found out from Lea that I had lost. She had checked off every item on her list and I still had to help a stranger. Bummer.
Still though, I wanted to finish and Lea was in Times Square, so I told her to come towards me.
Lea OkC: Snapple! “The ‘Valley of Square Trees’ in Panama is the only known place in the world where trees have rectangular trunks.” 4:44 PM
Lea OkC: And I got something else instead of dessert. I win! But you get a chance to give us each three more things to do, if you so choose. 4:45 PM
Lea OkC: Thoughts? 4:50 PM
Me: You’re done?! 4:51 PM
Me: I did my instrument so all I need is to help a stranger. 4:51 PM
Lea OkC: Yes! Well…im giving you a chance to add if you want 🙂 4:52 PM
Me: Ahhh. I dunno. 4:53 PM
Me: Find a place to pee?! Haha 4:54 PM
Lea OkC: I JUST did that lol 4:54 PM
Me: Well you’re killing me then. 4:54 PM
Lea OkC: u hungry? 4:54 PM
Lea OkC: n where are you now? 4:54 PM
Me: Yeah. 14th and 5th. 4:55 PM
Me: You? 4:55 PM
Lea OkC: 42nd & 8th 4:56 PM
Me: Haha. Come this way. Times Sq stinks. You can take the train to 14th or we can meet half way. 4:58 PM
Lea OkC: you finished yet? 5:03 PM
Me: No. I can’t find anyone in need! 5:04 PM
Lea OkC: Tourists make it easy 😉 5:04 PM
Me: True. Someone just turned my helping hand down. 🙁 5:06 PM
Lea OkC: Try again! 5:07 PM
Lea OkC: Take your time, im walking from where i was lol 5:07 PM
Me: Twice! 5:07 PM
Lea OkC: what exactly are you offering. haha 5:08 PM
Me: Physical labor. 5:09 PM
Lea OkC: ha whaaat! 5:10 PM
Me: Carrying things. Etc. 5:11 PM
Lea OkC: funny that it was my first and your last. 5:11 PM
Me: Got it! 5:13 PM
It took me nearly 25 minutes, but finally I helped a stranger. I had offered several people a hand with things they were carrying or moving but no one bit. Finally, I came across a mother and daughter debating directions and I was able to point them to their destination. I was done!
I was so eager to meet Lea by that point that I started walking up 8th Avenue in her direction.
Me: Which side of 8th are you on? 5:16 PM
Lea OkC: Im not. Did you look at the last photo? 5:16 PM
Me: Yep. 5:17 PM
Me: I have not gleaned anything from it… 5:17 PM
Me: The concrete is the last one, right? 5:18 PM
Lea OkC: …really? 5:18 PM
Lea OkC: Look at the ones after “stop.” 5:19 PM
I had already looked at all the photos, but I had no idea what she was getting at. To me, the last few images were random. Turning a cartwheel in a vineyard seemed like some kind of free spirit bullshit I wouldn’t understand.
Me: Yeah. Vineyard…? City Winery? 5:20 PM
Lea OkC: you’re not actually supposed to do it. it doesn’t remind you of anything? anyone? 5:21 PM
Holy shit. Anyone!? I had not once considered, at any point during that day, that Lea was someone I already knew. What a fool! How had I not seen this? How had I not equated “turn a cartwheel in a vineyard” with the one person I’d cartwheeled with in a vineyard?
Lea…Cecilea. My Winery / Wine Tasting Date, and all around new good friend, had just tricked me into a very welcomed second date. My mind was blown. It was SO far from what I was expecting that I was truly shocked at the realization.
Me: Haha. Ummmmm. Yes. 5:22 PM
Lea OkC: where are you? 5:22 PM
Me: 8th & 19th. You are crazy. 5:23 PM
Lea OkC: 6th & 18th 5:23 PM
Me: I’m going down and over. 5:24 PM
I met up with Cecilia and kissed the shit out of her. I was so surprised that she was the grand prize at the end of the scavenger hunt. I guess we both sort of won, in that regard.
We walked over to Westville Chelsea for an early dinner and chatted along the way. She told me that she thought the vineyard photo would have been a dead give away, and if it wasn’t, the picture of her hair and feet would have been certain to cement the idea. However, I told her that because of the order in which I received the photos, I had actually seen those first and they didn’t give away a damn thing. I really had no clue.
Over dinner, we exchanged flowers, desserts and NYC tourist trinkets. I hadn’t seen Cecilia for about five weeks, which was the longest we’d been apart since first meeting three months earlier. In that time, I had joined an improv team at the Magnet Theater and gone to Los Angeles. There was plenty to talk about on Cecilia’s side as a well and we enjoyed a nice, casual meal together while looking over some photos from the hunt.
One surprising tidbit was that Cecilia had originally tried to plan the whole scavenger hunt so that it would end back at my apartment, where she would be cooking dinner for me when I arrived. Sadly, my roommate Pat, who was necessary for such a stunt, was out of town that weekend. Admittedly, I would have been fairly sketched out if a random OkC woman knew where I lived, but that would have made the reveal only that much funnier. Too bad it didn’t work out.
I couldn’t, and still can’t, believe all the trouble that Cecilia went through to make this date happen. She had created a fake online dating persona, acquired a second phone number (Thanks, Google Voice), taken all of those photos and planned an entire scavenger hunt. I was blown away. It was one of the most fun and most amazing things anyone had ever done for me. I’d had such a blast, such an exciting day, that all I could do was repeatedly thank Cecilia throughout the meal.
We both lived in Astoria, but before we jumped on the train home, we lingered in Union Square and ate our desserts. We both tried each of them, sharing each other’s favorites and sharing our gross germs. It was cute as shit.
On the train ride home, we both attempted to mask our excitement but it had been five weeks since we’d been with each other and we couldn’t wait to get home and make out. We reviewed each other’s pictures from the day as a means to distract ourselves and to see what the other side of the scavenger hunt had been like.
The mystery woman from the internet had turned out to be someone I knew intimately and I was pretty damn happy that it had been Cecilia all along. What a surprise. What an amazing date.
Check out these tacky souvenirs that Cecilia got me: