Squawk Radio

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Elizabeth's Odyssey of the Lime

Originally uploaded by EliBev.
Finally, I have a chance to post about Odyssey of the Mind. This is our illustrious team, in their celebrated lime green shirts. (I did my best to keep them in the shade, so as not to blind anyone who looked at the photo.)

If you'll recall, the first time I mentioned Odyssey World Finals, I said I thought Christopher Guest should feature it as his next mockumentary, because, like "Spinal Tap" and "Best of Show," Odyssey World is more than a little surreal.

Imagine THOUSANDS of people overrunning a college campus--kids of all ages, parents, coaches, teachers. All color-coded by state T-shirts. Then color-coded even more by school T-shirts. Since their long-term problem resolutions include a dramatic skit of some kind, a lot of them accessorize said T-shirts by wearing their props and costumes with. Faces painted, they sport odd hats, bizarre wigs, colorful boas, inner tubes, leis, animal ears, plant life, fabric...stuff...you name it. Guys in tutus. Girls in cardboard boxes. No matter where you are, you can look down on the ground and see scattered bits of feathers, sequins, cotton balls and beads. All the coaches are packing glue guns. And they're not afraid to use them.

And then there's the guy who walks around dressed as a giant hat-wearing raccoon in opera gloves.

Opening ceremonies are like the Olympics, with members from each team (some from places as exotic as Kazakhstan and Singapore and Wisconsin) marching in with their country or state flag (and more props). The crowd goes wild. The crowd also glows in the dark, because they all have more...stuff. Glowing stuff. Light-up stuff. Radioactive stuff? Best not to ask. Some of those countries don't monitor these things the way we do. (Though we heard one team from overseas couldn't get its props through customs. Something about an illegal plastic emu or something. And no, it wasn't the team from Australia. I guess that was what tipped customs agents.)

And pin-trading. Oh. My. God. All the teams have little (or not so little) enamel pins from their respective state or country. Then they trade them. With cut-throat ruthlessness. Want the coveted guitar pins from California? The sun from Florida with detachable frogs? Tough luck, sucker! Not unless you give me all six from your state. And your first born. And a pint of your blood. (Oh, wait. You want the FULL set? Then you'll have to talk to my cousin Vito.)

As I said, our guys came in ninth in their division, of fifty-one teams. This in spite of scenery that got broken during shipping (one dad had to run out to find Christmas lights--in May--three hours before the team was due to go on), a team member who was sick the day of their long-term problem, and two technical glitches with one of their vehicles that cost them enough time that they never got to the final obstacle course that was worth the most points. Had everything gone smoothly, I'm convinced they would have medaled. But, hey, that's the surreal for you. You just can't count on smooth.

The kids had a blast, though, and that's the main thing. They're proud of themselves for their hard work and relentless tenacity and high placement, and we parents are even prouder. Because we know better than they do the odds they had to overcome to go as far as they did. We understand even better than they do that sometimes hard work and tenacity aren't enough. And we know that if we'd been assigned the same problem, we would have given up the first day, thinking it couldn't possibly be done. They're great kids, and they proved it in a million ways, surreal or no.

But you want to know the most surreal thing of all? I found out I actually look good in lime green.
Elizabeth Bevarly, 11:01 AM