Voices: Senior Scavenger Hunt

The night does not go on forever even though it may seem to be eternal.

You’re in Noa’s car waiting to pick up Frankie on the other side of town. You want to throw your Frosty out the window but know Noa will give you shit for littering. You feel strange knowing you are about to be out all night. Usually, at this time, you’re AIMing your crush till whenever. “Do you know where we pick up the list?” you ask Noa, swirling your machine dessert with a plastic spoon.

It is finally the night of your class’s Senior Scavenger Hunt. The Senior Scavenger Hunt is a town tradition in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, and it goes back 40 years. It is a very 1970s tradition, you think: it reminds you of Dazed and Confused, which you saw for the first time last year and loved. You and the rest of your classmates have divided yourselves up into friend groups to track down items from an Official List put together by Class Council. You’re with Noa, Frankie, and Alyse, naturally. There is only one rule: In the interim between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., collect as many items from the list as you can.

This list is two pages long, back and front. Fair Lawn police have in their possession a fake list half the length of the real one because it was given to them last week by your ex-friend and class president Michelle. The fake list includes only the most innocuous items—Sportsworld tokens, a pizza receipt from Three Bros in Seaside, a $2 bill. In order for the police to approve the Scavenger Hunt, what needs to be approved is this list. And the fake list has been “approved.” 

But there is a real list, which you learn is waiting for you in Michelle’s mailbox. The real list has everything on the fake list, in addition to many items the policemen and women who’ve tried to sabotage 50 percent of your seshes that year do not know about and would have never okayed. You think about how Senior Scavenger Hunt is not sanctioned by your high school nor is it approved by the town. About how the cops are never given the real list, but that they go along with it every year. You think all of it is cool, just like Dazed and Confused.

Dazed and Confused, 1993

“Okay. Do you want to kiss Elie for 450 points? It has to be with tongue for it to count.”

Everyone is in a competitive spirit but nobody has a plan. There is a chaos to the night you don’t really want to lose by caring too much, and you almost prefer to not think strategically about any of it. Easier to rely on basic human instinct: a FLHS agenda from your freshman year and ten TY™ Beanie Babies is a way easier route to 300 points than a stolen Port O Potty from Sasso Field.

After the first two hours of collecting all the easy stuff, you get a text from MIkey telling you that the strip of highway on 208 right off the Fair Lawn Ave exit has “mad roadkill.” For 500 points, your team can pick up this roadkill from the highway. You could easily hit 500 points by finding expired condoms at your parents’ house and Frankie’s sister’s old Little Tike’s Cozy Coupe, except how would you even go about fitting the Cozy Coupe in Noa’s Camry in the first place? You wish you were still friends with Michelle. At least she drives a van.

“Should we do it?” you ask your friends. You all decide “Yeah, why not.” Noa turns the car around and pulls over near the apartments. “I see it, it’s like pushed to the side,” you tell Frankie. She makes the sign of the cross before running into traffic with a garbage bag and picking up the rotting corpse of a squirrel. Like it’s dog shit, she flips the bag inside out. You both spasm when it hits the bottom with a thud. When she’s back, yelling “Open the trunk! The trunk!” you can’t stop laughing. You laugh and laugh. 

Number 43 on the list is worth a considerable number of points and is easy enough—take a group photo in front of five different Dunkin Donuts. There are five DDs in the seven-mile-radius you are standing at the center of. The big joke in your town is that you have five Dunkin Donuts to choose from, but no Starbucks. So fucked up, you think.

It takes you all about 30 minutes to complete the photo series. Someone starts a discussion about what everyone should be doing in the picture—throwing up a 2007 sign? Does Alyse’s digital camera even have a self timer? You want to shout “We’re on the clock!” but it doesn’t matter. Your group is never going to win because neither of you went to the same elementary school as Margot Schock. You don’t even know what she looks like, or where she is in the world, but she is on the list for 5,000 points.

Alyse reminds everyone that Steven needs to be picked up soon. Steven is Alyse’s brother. He is a freshman, and Number 95 on the list is a freshman covered in peanut butter hugging a sophomore covered in jelly. Obviously, Steven was to be your freshman, and Illi your sophomore.

Noa drives us to Alyse’s parents’ house to pick up Steven. You’re all in neutral in the driveway when someone screams “It’s already three! Shit!” and Noa goes “Oh, fuck!” and starts backing out of the driveway. It is in a very split second that you notice from your seat in the back that Steven isn’t even fully in the car yet and hasn’t shut the door behind him. Noa has already backed the car up a good 20 feet and Steven is on the concrete shouting something. Alyse is furious. “My brother just fell out of the car,” she says matter-of-factly to everyone. “Like, my brother just fell out of the car.” You think that Alyse might cry. For some reason you are about to cry too. Not because you feel sad, but because it’s so dramatic. Is he dead?

Steven is fine. He has a roadburn on his hip, but he gets back in the car and you pick your sister up next. When you roll up to your house, Illi is sitting on the front porch smoking a cigarette. She looks old and cool and beautiful, and the house that says your address in brass above the door looks small. Even after you blink this mystifying moment doesn’t go away.

At 6:30 a.m., after the first round of judging is finished, you help your little sister wash peanut butter off of her leg in the Van Der Platt Field Parking Lot with a washcloth. She keeps asking you to stop, that you have no idea how to clean anything off of a body, and you’re only making the mess worse, but you feel like you need to help because you just so are sick of waiting. You feel delirious, and you are convinced your sweatshirt smells like dead squirrel. All the fun is done.

“‘Kay, round two! Round two judging!” you hear your friend Alex, who is senior class VP, call out about seven times in a row into a megaphone that seems to be broken. “Bonus round starts now!”

Michelle walks over with Alex’s brother Elie, who is drunk beyond your belief. He is in eighth grade and making out with him gives your team an extra 450 points.

“This shit was wild,” Elie says after hitting the blunt twice and holding back a cough. 

Your ex-friend Michelle approaches you in a very professional manner. She’s been class president of your grade for the past four years, but you’ve always thought she was a little too thin-skinned to actually go into politics. Actually the whole reason your friendship ended was because one time, you took her boyfriend’s side. “Hey. Are you team captain?” Michelle acts as aloof as possible. You tell her you didn’t know there were team captains but that you could assume that role if need be since all your friends were finding a peeing place. Michelle tightens her jaw at your passive aggressive attitude. 

“Okay. Do you want to kiss Elie for 450 points? It has to be with tongue for it to count.”

Elie, face full of baby fat, is staring at you, so embarrassed. He raises up two hands. “No pressure,” he assures you, with a confidence you don’t understand. You shake your head. “I’m good,” you respond. “Are you having fun?” Elie doesn’t even hear you because Michele is already tugging him by the arm, trying to find a group more desperate for points.

Something in you can’t go home yet, so you decide to stick around to help clean up. This means getting rid of beer cans and vodka handles but leaving all the other shit. When Alex lights the blunt from behind his ear it is you, him, this kid Frank who is in your Power Writing class, Michelle, and Elie sitting there. “This shit was wild,” Elie says after hitting the blunt twice and holding back a cough. 

He tells the group he made out with Jen K, Jen SV, Aida, Crissy, and Karina. “I feel like I lost my virginity ten times.” You just lost your virginity, last week actually, so you find this very endearing. You look at Michelle, who is purposefully avoiding eye contact with you. You realize she doesn’t even know you’re not a virgin.

Elie passes the blunt to you, and when he does you accidentally touch his baby wrist somehow when reaching for it. “Sorry,” you say, awkwardly, because you didn’t mean to touch him. You take a fairly big hit, exhaling away from Elie’s face and into the morning. It will be a cloudy day but the sun is rising. It’s so funny to you. You can’t imagine ever feeling old.