From the Dept. of Shenanigans: Reverse Scavenger Hunt at BMIR

What happens when you put out a call to BRC citizens to bring a little bit of their heart to the station?

When faced with a principle like Participation, there’s pretty much no way you can fall on your shyness sword. You just have to proceed. For me, that moment was going on-air at BMIR on Thursday, September 1, from 2 pm to 3 pm, to conduct a fun experiment: a reverse treasure hunt. Every 10 minutes for an hour, I called out something for the citizens of BRC to bring to the station. The first person who walked through the doors with that thing could go on the air to tell us about what they brought and why.

I should have realized my nervousness was a waste of time because this story isn’t about me. It’s about the incredible people — and the slice of life — that came into BMIR on that hot afternoon.

But before I can tell you about Tree and Sunbeam and Peepshow, I need to tell you about Moldover, the most kind and patient DJ there ever was. Our hero was just about to start his radio show when — surprise! — I turned up with an involved idea that wasn’t 100% baked. With just a few minutes to talk it through, Moldover helped me hatch a plan, complete with our own fun-loving and pantsless wrangler, Allegra, to ensure that this thing wouldn’t be a total mess.

Once we went on air, I witnessed a special kind of wizardry behind the scenes. First off, Allegra was such a hustla. No matter which thing I called out as part of the reverse scavenger hunt, she made sure someone came through those doors to participate, even if that person was an unsuspecting passerby on the Esplanade. (BRC is full of great sports! But you knew that.) Inside, behind the mic, I couldn’t believe how Moldover managed to play music, give important community updates, work in the reverse scavenger hunt at regular intervals, and seamlessly accommodate all the people dropping by to do PSAs, shoutouts and more. His easygoing demeanor, sense of flow, and Canada-themed playlist were the stuff calm is made of.

So? What did we get in the scavenger hunt? Let’s do this.

A Poem

The first thing we asked for was a poem. Participants had 10 minutes to bring a poem to the station, and the first person who arrived would go on-air to read their work. (Same process for all five things we asked for.) I fretted that this project would be a failure for nearly eight minutes until, lo and behold, in walked in Tree, a honest to goodness, real-life, fiery, word-spewing street poet. (They say the playa provides, and boy does it ever.) With just a few minutes to prep, Tree seemed sort of stressed herself as she tried to rehearse what she would say. Watching her scribbling, pacing, and practicing with wild hand gestures, you couldn’t help but wonder what would happen once her mic turned on. Would she come through? She did. She killed it. Here’s one of two poems she performed with true confidence.

A Love Letter

The next callout was to bring love letter or a picture of someone you love to the station. That’s when Joe came through the doors with a secret admirer’s note received by his friend at a matchmaking camp the night before. It said:

To Pickle,

Let me be your brine.

The Weirdest Thing at Your Camp

For this one, we had the pleasure of meeting Sunbeam, who walked in with her “Marriage Destruction Kit,” which included a pizza box full of old letters, a veiled teddy bear, her wedding dress, and a melted, misshapen candle from her actual wedding over a decade ago. Sunbeam didn’t mince words when it came to her ex- or her story, which involved giving a child up for adoption. It was all headed to the Temple in just a few days for a cathartic burn.

And Then…Another Love Letter

Then Peepshow walked through our doors. He was a love-struck human who had, just 20 minutes earlier, finished writing the most breathtaking ode to a woman he’d spotted daily as he did his job cleaning porta-potties. He’d heard our call to bring a love letter to the station and bounded over. I wasn’t prepared for the beauty that came next.

Something You Don’t Need Anymore

With visions of a whole lotta crap heading our way, next we asked people to write down what they didn’t need anymore and bring it to the station. What followed could have been a BRC ruse (as a very gullible person, I wouldn’t know) or a legit case of laryngitis: Jaki wrote down “my voice” on a piece of paper and proceeded to do a silent interview with Allegra on-air. She did a fantastic job of translating for him and keeping the sketch going. Moldover, of course, played along perfectly, too, while I held on for dear life.

Tastiest Food at Your Camp

By this point, I was hungry and thirsty and psyched that “tastiest food” was our next callout. Tastiest food and it’s only Thursday? Bring it on! I envisioned the most elaborate, delicious, over-the-top treats that some fancy-pants camp would deliver to BMIR on a gorgeous human platter. Instead, a maiden named Jordan, pulled in off the Esplanade, shared some of her freeze-dried strawberries with us. They were tangy, tasty, and perfect for Black Rock City.

About the author: Mia Quagliarello

Mia Quagliarello

Mia Quagliarello is Burning Man Project's Digital Community Manager. She went to Burning Man for the first time in 2006 (seven months pregnant, no less) and immediately wanted to leave. (She didn't know dust storms were a thing.) But 24 hours after that initial shock, she fell in love with it, and it's been a part of her life in big and small ways ever since. On playa, you'll usually find her camping in Kidsville, riding Bahamut the dragon, or hugging a speaker because she loves music so much.

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