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45 + 120 points

Bigger, Better, or More Bizarre by Spidere, High Countess Emily, Orange Magister, Neil Werewolf, Tony Vila, K prime, Flitworth, Coreopsis Major Bloden Melen, Innocuous Invention

July 13th, 2007 9:23 PM

INSTRUCTIONS: A scavenger hunt with a twist...

Team up with another player (or thirty). Each player or team begins with a small, cheap item, such as an unsharpened number 2 pencil or a cotton ball. Offer these items to innocent bystanders in a trade for something bigger, better, or more bizarre. Repeat the process with the next item you acquire, and the one after that, for a set amount of time (1.5 hours is usually enough to produce absurd results), photographically documenting each trade.

At the end of the game, regroup with your fellow players and compare the spoils of your efforts. Whoever ends with the biggest, best, or most bizarre item wins.

Spidere: organization

July 4th on the National Mall really is the best time to do this. Here in Washington, DC, there were hordes of people waiting for fireworks and visiting from around the country or from around the world. People in a good mood, waiting around, and with plenty of stuff to trade. We were also holding a house party, containing 30-some people of strange dispositions and curious natures. It seemed like the perfect time to do Bigger, Better, or More Bizarre.

I rounded up about 24 people who were willing to play, and began to prepare. why 24? 24 is the number of crayons in a standard box of crayola crayons


and also the number of bottles of water in a cvs package. Everyone was matched into pairs (with one triplet), and each person was given a single crayon from the box of crayons, to begin their trading. Everyone was also given a bottle of water (even in the afternoon, the heat in DC can be daunting). I also printed out signs to make everyone seem more official--on one side, they proclaimed in simple terms "Bigger, Better, or More Bizarre!" and on the reverse gave the instructions and a list of entries to record trades.



We commandeered a metro car...


Soon, everyone was brought to the National Archives metro stop, and the trading began!


In two hours, we returned to talk about our trades--see the stories and pictures below!


And in the end, we all got to see the fireworks.


In the future there will be no money. One by one currencies will collapse across the world as humanity is plunged into an unfathomable darkness. In every capital city and every economic hub there will be chaos. Anarchists, terrorists, and pseudo-communist undergraduates will smile, briefly, before realizing how very wrong they were. Manhattan will resound with the wailing and gnashing of teeth of stockbrokers, investors, bankers and usurious lenders alike. When this day comes only bartering will allow what is left of the population to survive. It is in the spirit of perseverance and the determination to live through the coming annihilation of the world financial system as we know it that I joined Bigger, Better, or More Bizarre. It is we few who have truly learnt the value of a crayon who will rebuild America. It will be people like Alexa Fields (who have discovered that the American flag isn't just worth the symbology of the heart and soul of our great nation and precious freedoms, it's worth a strapless bra) who will help us be reborn. Although currently in a job that will turn to dust when the blackness descends Dennis Clark will be ready because he has seen beyond and knows how to acquire the printed word through exchanging goods. Our future leaders are already maturing; Men like Spidere, who have organized these activities that will hone our skills. Women like Kim Kramer who can acquire Swedish military chapstick (the most amazing substance on earth, second only to duct tape and soy in its versatility). Food, maps, collapsible binoculars, other people's medication, things with buttons on them - these will be what carry us towards the light, give us strength, and heal our country. How fitting that in the year of our lord 2007 on Independence Day we came together and dedicated our minds to that which will allow the United States of America to assume the powers of the earth once more in the aftermath of catastrophe.

Going more-or-less in the same direction as the others, with my partner Flitworth, we got off to a slow start, mainly due to the mis-advised starting location of a street full with touts of Independence Day paraphenalia. This resulted in many people we stopped assuming that we were trying to sell them unwanted merchandise, rather than offering up our humble crayons for trade.

Once we cleared this block of misfortune, we happened upon a great circular fountain in the National Sculpture Garden, heavily populated by people relaxing in the afternoon's air; and
trading began in force. Flitworth was most successful at first, trading her crayon for variously a zip-tie, a 'Life's a Beach' sticker, pens and food.

Taking inspiration from her successes, and overcoming the conservativeness instilled in me by my British upbringing, I was equally successful: the crayon went for a Marriot pen, which was swapped a mere two people later for a pair of Crest tooth whitening strips. Being in less than mint condition, I was dubious how attractive these would be in a trade bid, but they finally went when a friendly family were more than happy to offer a glow stick for the chance to gain some pearly whites. At this point, we were called over by a family who had previously spurned our advances earlier down the road. This time, they informed us, their daughter had been furiously searching for something to trade with us for our crayon, and would love to give us a granola bar for our troubles. A glow stick was even better and, smiling child behind us, we were re-enthused and hit up every other family in the area. Unfortunatley, whilst taken in good humour, noone had anything interesting for us, so I ended up with a 'Visit Northern Ireland' fan, and Flitworth a rather hard to offload Chict Tract.

Our fortunes were about to take a turn for the worse, since we then immediately passed the 'free fan' and 'get your salvation here' stands, offering endless supplies of both fans AND tracts to the public. Knowing it would be difficult to trade in such a saturated market, we headed up and across the Mall to the steps of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Here we found a triplet of good-humoured teenage girls, who were more than happy to exchange my fan for a tampon (super size), and Flitworth's document for a map.

Knowing the value of a tampon to a Frat Boy, I immediately set about looking for groups of young humans with XY chromosomes. My target was not far away, and a group of said boys were eager to help, althought their inital offers of empty bottles not exactly 'better' than the item I was holding. Perserverance paid off, however, when one young gent finally scoured his bag, extracting an 'interwrite (TM) PCS' schoolroom interactive handset. Complete with batteries, red, green *and* yellow lights, this high-tech, much better item remained in my hand until, like Wimbledon so much this year, rain stopped play.

Simultaneously, Flitworth had smiled sweetly at another Frat Boy, and gained a Bible for the Smithsonian map. This proved to be not the easiest thing to trade, since a tightrope needed to be walked when 'offloading' such a sensitive book.
Knowing this, we avoided the many 'Save your soul!' style stands, and opted instead to approach a family of several children. This was not the best call in the world since the dialogue began, "I'm looking to swap this for something bigger..."; reply from the mother, "Surely there is nothing bigger than the Bible...". At this point, we were on a knife-edge, any wrong word could have caused a torrent of Baptist rant. Luckily, Flitworth had a magic formula. Appealing to here Baptist roots and enumerating the Bibles already in here possession, the situation was rapidly de-fused. In the light of this, new-found friendship, Flitworth successfully gained a moose pin for her troubles.

Having spotted six Park Rangers cutely huddled together on a golf buggy, we were then surprised by a police car heading straight for us, right down the centre of the grass. A thunderstorm, it seemed, was comning.
Whilst evacuating the Mall, Flitworth charmed first a lady, sitting on an 'England' towel, and recently moved from Liverpool, into exchanging her map for three single-unit lego blocks; then a Canadian couple into swapping her Lego for a very tasty candy bar, her finishing item.

Overall, we found most people very receptive to our advances, with families and young adults the most accommodating. Much fun was had.

Spidere, Kaitlin, Kim, and relatives

My partner was Kaitlin, but we were also joined by Kim, her mother, and her brother, who all wanted to watch some trading. We began by seeking out those nearby the metro stop. Many of them had already been hit by other groups (we could tell from the crayons they were holding), but even some of those were still helpful and interested in trading. We first traded for a tampon, which I was frankly skeptical of, but was assured by the two girls of how useful it was. And indeed, we quickly traded up to a box of raisins, and from there, to a cigarette lighter shaped like a cigarette. This left us quite well prepared for meeting up with a group of Germans (smokers all), from whom we received a bag of authentic German gummi bears (GUmmi Baeren!) in exchange for the lighter. This bag of gummi bears would stay with us for a while (as many people correctly asked, "what could be better than gummi bears?"). We also traded Kaitlin's crayon for a box of matches, and from there to a bottle of water. This bottle of water we traded to a family for a Finnish slang comic book (in which Donald Duck exclaims that he has trousers, but has no pants). It seemed impossible for us to find something more bizarre (and indeed, we did not). At this point, we plateaued for a while, since we could not find anyone who had something bigger, better, or more bizarre than either of these. People were generally very eager to trade (We always started off by saying it was "a kind of scavenger hunt". Everyone loves helping out with scavenger hunts. i'm not sure why this compulsion exists, but it gives me renewed faith in people's willingness to be bizarre.). they never seemed to care as much about the value of the trade as about taking part in the trading. Several Americans thought we were trying to proselytize some strange religion or sell them some strange service, and quickly sent us on our way. But our Scandanavian friends came through again when we made our final trade; in exchange for the gummi bears, we received Swedish military chapstick. This amazing substance can be used not only for protecting chapped lips, but also any other chapped part of the body, as well as being able to grease a pan; most impressively, though, in a pinch they can be eaten as emergency rations!

Aaron Dinkin and The High Countess Emily

We began by deciding we had the chutzpah to approach someone selling U.S. flags for two dollars and ask him if he'd trade us a flag for a crayon. Although he insisted that that didn't sound like a fair exchange, when we said the crayon was "all we have", he gave us a flag and refused to take a crayon. So far, so good.

We decided our best strategy would be to approach people who seemed to be in their twenties to mid-thirties, sitting around or waiting, who had backpacks or purses, and tell them we were doing a scavenger hunt. In short order we traded the flag for a flag-pattern bandanna, and the bandanna for a fake million-dollar bill with Ronald Reagan's face on it and advice on the back about how to avoid going to hell, printed by the Capital Baptist Church. At receiving something as bizarre as this, our standards went up: bigger and better alone wouldn't cut it; we needed something at least as bizarre as well.

We approached several people and groups who seemed intrigued by the game and eager to participate, but none of them had anything they were willing to part with that could beat out the million-dollar bill (although one man said if we'd been doing it a few years earlier he would have given us his kids). One group of people on a picnic blanket seemed particularly enthusiastic and offered us a suction-cup ball, which we would have taken until they decided that it wasn't theirs to offer, and "Rebecca will kill us" if she came back and it was gone. We were prepared to move on, but they were determined to search everything they had to find something to offer us for the million-dollar bill. After spending a while offering us each other and various half-empty snack boxes, one of them offered to let us tear a page out of the _Zombie Survival Handbook_. This was an offer that was hard to turn down, and when we couldn't find a particular page we wanted to take, she let us take the whole book (as long as we let her read the last couple of pages first).

We were unable to top the _Zombie Survival Handbook_, spending the next hour occasionally offering it to people who had nothing bigger, better, or more bizarre than that. Thus we ended the afternoon well-prepared to survive the inevitable zombie uprising.

Nate Ackerman and Steven Padnick

On July Fourth, 2007, HRSFA spread out over the National Mall in Washington, DC to play a game of Bigger, Better, More Bizarre. Nate Ackerman and I, Steven Padnick, partnered up, despite meeting three seconds before. Given a blue and pink crayon, we were off.

We got off to a somewhat slow start. Though we found that when we told people that we were playing a game and looking for weird objects, people more than willing to help us if they could (except for one guy who claimed he had nothing weird because he was, and I quote, "All-American"). However, trading a crayon for a Super Cuts business card, a pad of paper, a paper fan, or a hotel key card for a Holiday Inn in New York wasn't getting us BIGGER things, or BETTER things.

Epiphany came when we saw an Independence Day party picnic, and we walked over to ask for a balloon. As they had twenty, they were more than happy to give up one. That's when we realized that we shouldn't ask for weird things people had, so much as see what they had and just ask for that, and then offer to trade.

Our other moment of revelation was when someone gave us a flyer promoting Hare Krshna, and a pamphlet warning us about religious fanatics handing out pamphlets. That was when we realized there were people GIVING weird stuff away. That's when we realized that we could trade one of the pamphlets for three maps of the National Mall, the maps for two more fans, one of the fans for two American flag stickers, and one of the maps for two more fans.

The two thoughts together lead us to walk up to a street preacher and ask for a Bible, which he didn't have. But he pointed us to a tent that was more than happy to give us one, and a Spanish language edition of the New Testament, in exchange for one of the flag stickers.

And then it became a game of collecting as much evangelical material as possible. A little girl was handing out Chick Tracts, we ran over to the Hare Krishna tent to get a replacement flyer, and then back to the National Mall information booth to trade BACK for the anti-pamphlet pamplet because we couldn't find it anywhere.

In the end, we had one English language Bible, one Spanish language Bible, one map of the National Mall, one American flag sticker, one balloon, one fan, one Chick Tract, one Hare Krshna flyer, and one anti-pamphlet pamphlet, which we got for two crayons. All together, we ended up with stuff that was bigger, better, and much, much more bizarre.

Tony vila and Elizabeth 'Quirk' Goodman

We started with a Violet Crayon.
Pretty quickly we traded for a Mariott Pen with some middle-aged tourists.
But the next group gave us an unopened Tic-Tac package for the Pen.
We traded the Tic Tacs for some Trident Gum (strawberry flavored) with some elderly tourists.
We then traded the Gum for a calendar of Irish Houses, which was big and very pretty.
We hit a cold spot for a while and had trouble trading for something Bigger or Better than the calendar. We tried the Mall for a while, but most people didn't bring cool stuff.
Eventually we found some elderly ladies who traded us the calendar for a Stress Ball, made of yarn. We felt it was more bizarre.
We then happened upon a family outside the Museum of Natural History, who thought we were cute and asked their kids "do you have anything you want to trade? this is weird". The father offered us his
Nitroglycerin Pills for the Yarn Ball, which we were shocked at but took.
We ended with Nitroglycerin Pills.

Sometime during the calendar Lull we started our Green Crayon.
Pretty quickly some college age kids camping out thought we were funny, and traded us Red Powerade for the Green Crayon.
We offered the Red Powerade alongside the calendar for a while, and were surprised that people almost never took the delicious red beverage.
Towards the end of the day, we found a merchant selling plastic shades by the side of the road, and we offered him the Powerade. He thought for a bit and offered us some of the sunglasses he wanted to sell for the bottle. We took Pink Sunglasses because they seemed more Bizarre.
We pretty quickly found a teenage girl who loved the Pink Sunglasses, and said she had something perfect for them. She took off her keychain a device that has: a mirror, a small light, a compass, and folds out to become some binoculars.
We ended with Binocular/Mirror/Light/Compass Device.

Innocuous Invention, Orange Magister, and Coreopsis Major (photohistorian)

Within the first ten minutes or so, we had traded a blue crayon for a pair of 3-D glasses (obtained from an unlikely old couple) and traded the 3-D glasses for a working umbrella covered with the good ol' stars and stripes. Try as we might, we never found anything that was bigger, better, or even more bizarre than the umbrella for the rest of the game, though Innocuous Invention was glad to have it when it started to rain later.

We then ran into a bunch of kids who had been already approached twice by other BBBers. After much rooting around in his bag, one of them finally produced an unused electric toothbrush head. After all that rooting around, we accepted it. It was certainly bizarre, though not much bigger and probably not better. About ten minutes later, though we had yet to offer it to anyone, we decided that we were actually less likely to get any trades at all if we offered people this who-knows-where-it's-been toothbrush head, and the Magister started over with Coreopsis Major's spare crayon.

The crayon became a pen from a teacher's conference, which started an interesting conversation with some Nebraskans who knew a lot more about Innocuous Invention's parents' home state than he did. This we traded for a pack of Big Red gum, which became some Altoids, which became a granola bar, which became a People magazine with Paris Hilton on the cover. This was fairly big and possibly also bizarre, but the Magister finally traded it for a squishy heart toy that somebody got for donating blood. This toy pleased him more than anything else, and so he kept it until the end.

+ larger

the navy memorial
Alexa ends up with a bra
crayon for zip tie
zip tie for "life's a beach" sticker
"life's a beach" sticker for food
pamphlet for a map
a bible
bible for moose pin
moose pin for legos
crayon for pen
Harry stalks his prey
The great granola exchange
Harry and a happy girl
getting a tampon (and getting in touch with his feminine side)
schoolroom handset for the win!
everyone is happy in the end
crayon for tampon
tampon for raisins
raisins for lighter
lighter for gummi bears!
gummi bears for chapstick
crayon for matches
matches for water
water for donald duck!
getting an American flag
enjoying the flag
a flag for...1 million dollars!
a million dollar bill with Ronald Reagan...
back of the million dollar question
the zombie survival guide

24 vote(s)

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6 comment(s)

So many crayons...
posted by Eccoglyph on July 16th, 2007 9:07 AM

Wish I could have been there for the end of it. :-S

Brilliant completion!
posted by Lincøln on July 16th, 2007 11:12 PM

A winner is you!

(no subject)
posted by rongo rongo on July 17th, 2007 2:58 PM

So cool!

Task + Event =
posted by p00n Totenkinder on October 21st, 2007 6:43 PM


(no subject)
posted by Hey-Look-It's Caleb! on November 6th, 2007 8:37 AM

Love the stories :)

(no subject)
posted by Frostbeard on December 7th, 2007 9:45 PM

so...i am both astonished and upset by these photos. i have been thinking for a long time of getting a tattoo based on some symbols from esoteric alchemy, something that i never thought i'd see on a different person....and one of these dudes, almost for sure, has it. what random luck. that's amazing.