The slip of paper reads “Gabe, I really need your help. Meet me at Central Park at 6pm. Keep this note between you and me. Act fast because someone you know and love is in danger.” The note is from Bindu, the academic director here at EC New York. It’s 5:45 on a Thursday evening, and I’ve just finished teaching my Low Intermediate class. I’m tired, I’m grumpy, I’m starving, and I want to go home. But what can I do? Someone I love is in danger. It’s time to act!
It’s time for our yearly team-building activity at EC New York. Last year we played laser tag. This year is different. Everything about the evening has been shrouded in mystery. None of the teachers are really sure of what to expect.
Our group meets in Central park. Bindu is there. She looks nervous. “Colleen has been kidnapped,” she explains. “The kidnappers left us this.” She holds up a large lockbox with a handle. “They say you have to do exactly what they tell you or else something bad will happen to Colleen.”
There are two groups: Bindu’s and Jamey’s, and it’s a race. Both teams are racing to solve the mystery as fast as they can.
Bindu produces an envelope, inside of which is a note. It’s almost illegible. The letters have all been cut from magazines and pasted together. The result is dizzying. We manage to gather something about princesses, and someone shouts “The Disney Store!” and the hunt is on. We rush through Times Square toward the land of Disney. Once we’re there, another clue is revealed. This one is a rhyme. We figure that we need to gather up dolls of all the princesses and take a picture as evidence, and so we tear through the store like madmen, trying to find the dolls we need to move on to the next challenge. Boxes are knocked over; children are shoved to the ground. People watch us like we’re crazy, but we manage to take the picture with all seven of the required Disney Princesses, and we receive our next clue.
We criss-cross back and forth through Times Square for the next two hours, solving one mystery after the next. Our little group is not free from casualty. Our fingers are cold. Our stomachs are grumbling. Bindu missteps from a curb and twists her ankle. But we persevere. We are determined to win at all costs.
And finally we do. Our two groups convene at The Pig and Whistle, a pub on 47th and 7th. Platters of hot food are ordered and drinks are drunk.
Despite spending most days in the same building, the teachers at EC New York spend surprisingly little time in each other’s company. Most time is spent in classes, with students. They are happy to have this night of adventure. They talk eagerly with each other, and they wonder at what next year’s team-building activity might have in store for them.