Clock at University of St. Thomas - Minneapolis campus

Of all my many middle school activities, I was only on one team. A team for geeks. (It’s true.) I feel safe in sharing this, thanks to the Geek Squad for bringing back the geeks and making them cool. The kind of team that does Thinking Cap Quiz Bowl, Knowledge Master Quiz Bowl and the sort. The kind of crew that’s complimented more for nice neurons than great guns.

This 1994 spring team was for Odyssey of the Mind (OM), a long-term creative problem solving competition. We chose a literary challenge to write and perform a 10-minute play with specific criteria. The six of us were singing mice (with mice accents, obviously) in an opera in Sydney, set of course at the Sydney Opera House. The plot was one of crime and intrigue and sung soliloquies, which I’ve since forgotten probably for good reason. Ironically, our grand finale was inspired by a common sports expression that “the opera ain’t over till the fat lady sings.” Which, of course, was how the tale of opera singing mice in Sydney ended. Naturally.

The second part of the competition was known as “Spontaneous.” Teams would meet in front of a panel of judges in a closed room and be given an on-the-spot spontaneous problem to solve. You’d get a word or phrase, image or concept, and your team would answer Family Feud-style to see how clever you could collectively be. The more original = the more points. And you so want points. When time was up, you’d solemnly swear not to spontaneously share the challenge or be disqualified. (No joke…OM is serious business.)

In the spirit of a Spontaneous challenge, look again at the photo above. What do you see? (When you decide to take a timeout, my answers are below, but please, no judging.)

  • Clock  [Tip: go for the easy points first!]
  • A face
  • A sprocket
  • Measure of time
  • One moment in time
  • Frozen hands
  • A sign of the times
  • 12 signs of the zodiac
  • A full circle protractor
  • A Twister board with a gold spinner
  • A 12-person in ground, public seating area
  • 525,600 minutes
  • A 4-H camp song (From minute to minute, 4-H is really with it. From hour to hour, 4-H has got the power.)
  • Tik Tok by Ke$ha (though I rarely wake up in the mornin’ feelin’ like P. Diddy)