As Abby and Jamie sat for dinner in a Sherm kosher side booth on Thursday night, engaging in a much-needed catch-up conversation, Jamie brought up her need to quest for a new study spot, as her old one had lost its luster/consistent results on her mood and productivity. The spoken aloud phrase of “the quest” awakened a memory in Abby, of something she had not spoken of directly to anyone.
Abby’s Testimony of The Quest (Questimony?):
My first recollection of The Quest comes from an email, now lost to time, from the Department of Student Activities (now the Department of Student Engagement) advertising The Quest, complete with an approximately 20-second clip advertising the quest as “even Quest-ier” than previous years. The email included a link to sign up (simply inputting your email into a Google form to be notified of The Quest’s commencing), and a description of The Quest. By adding your email to the list, you were agreeing to receive an email one random morning during the semester (essentially guaranteed to be a class day), notifying you that The Quest had begun. You would have to find time during this random day to Quest on your own. That day, approximately (if not exactly; I don’t recall. This was three years ago) a hundred wooden discs with The Quest’s logo engraved on it would be hidden around campus, and once you found one, you would have completed The Quest. The day following The Quest, a tent would be set up on the Great Lawn, at which you could redeem your wooden token for prizes, randomly assigned to the number on your token. This could range from simpler things like t-shirts, water bottles and keychains, to big ticket items like Beats wireless headphones and Target gift cards. I was immediately drawn in by this elusive Quest, especially by the prospect of having something to do outdoors during a COVID-19 semester with only virtual classes. I submitted my email, and waited anxiously for the day The Quest would enter my inbox.
Months later, I had entirely forgotten about The Quest. I would think back to it occasionally when in my room late at night when binging various Netflix shows after a day of only virtual social interaction. The morning of Friday, April 23, though, I would be reminded. As earlier mentioned, you only would only know if The Quest was happening if you received that email the morning it occurred. Friday mornings for me that semester were primarily taken up by Provocative Art, a Creative Arts class co-taught by three professors that met once a week from 10 a.m. to 12:50 p.m. I had my alarm set for 9 a.m. to guarantee I would be awake, because I prefer to be awake and not jump into a class, virtual or not, groggy and potentially unprepared to be hit with a barrage of lecture points and questions. However, my 9 a.m. alarm was not what awoke me that morning: a ray of sunlight hitting me in the eye through my 6th floor Hassenfeld window did, an hour before my alarm. I was disgruntled when I checked the time, but became immediately less so when I saw the 8 a.m. sharp email notification from Student Activities: The Quest Has Begun!
My adrenaline kicked in immediately. I dressed right away, put on my boots, and began my hunt around campus. Starting in East Quad, I hunted around the ICC and the dumpsters, finding nothing. However, I refused to give up so easily, knowing the rest of campus laid before me. I was initially surprised to see a dearth of people around campus, but it was 8 a.m. on a Friday. As I continued my search and turned up with nothing, I grew disheartened as I followed Loop Road, progressing past North Quad, the humanities quad, Chapels Field, Massell and Sherman. This is partially my fault, I do admit; not only were the discs well hidden, I am a notoriously bad finder (I am not a Hufflepuff, I am a Ravenclaw). I began a slow, sad trek past the Lights of Reason towards Spingold, particularly distressed because I had been searching for almost an hour. I knew I had to eventually begin heading back to East for my aforementioned 10 a.m. Zoom class, and I worried that if I had to go back out later in the day after more students had searched and found tokens, I would have had an even lesser chance of finding one and getting a prize. However, as I walked and mulled over my situation, a statue outside of Spingold caught my eye; it was a tall, blue and gray figure made of miscellaneous metal piping and with slightly disconcerting eyes. If you’ve seen the statue, you know what I’m talking about. On this chilly April morning, he (she? they?) seemed less scary than usual and more like a friend, and I, a first year student who was in need of friends, approached. Lo and behold, this friend had a gift for me: a wooden Quest token wedged in his back. I triumphantly removed it and silently thanked him for his presence and contribution to my quest. I feel as though we’re good friends now, and I always smile at him fondly when I reach that part of campus.
I quickly returned to my dorm, with plenty of time until my first and only class of the day, basking in the glory of my wooden token. To be quite honest, the satisfaction of finding the token was enough, and I would have much rather simply kept it than turned it in for a prize. I sat with it on my desk throughout my class, holding it proudly, but out of view of my Zoom window.
The following day, at about noon, I somewhat begrudgingly trudged to the white tent planted on the Great Lawn, as foretold by the initial Quest email, where 4 people in either The Quest or Student Activities t-shirts awaited me. I was the only one there at the time, and I handed in my token. One of the two people there at their laptops referenced the number on my token, marked it found in their records, and found the prize it corresponded to: my very own Quest t-shirt. They asked me my t-shirt size, and handed me a gray shirt with The Quest’s logo emblazoned on the chest. I still own it, and wear it most commonly as a pajama shirt, but I do treasure it and the Questing memories that came along with it.
My only remaining evidence of The Quest, other than my own personal photos and videos, is an email from the old Student Activities department thanking the participants of The Quest, announcing that thirteen tokens were not found during the day of The Quest. They declared them still in play, and gave until the end of the week for anyone who hadn’t yet found a token to find one and bring it to the Student Activities office. I was sad that I couldn’t participate, but glad to know that The Quest still lived on.
However, that was the last time I had ever heard of The Quest in play.
Jamie’s response to The Quest:
I feel as if I have arrived too late to begin my hero’s journey. The rug was ripped out from beneath my feet when Abby told me about the event. I never had the chance to participate in The Quest when Abby did (I am in the class of 2025; she is in 2024 … I was not at university yet when the above events ensued). How could I not participate in something with as mysterious a name as The Quest.
Brandeis has not hosted an official Quest since. While the university has many unofficial quests (securing an empty library study room, finding an open lower Usdan booth seat, planning perfectly to run through a Monday schedule on a Thursday), it has never had The Quest while I have been on campus.
I love the idea of such an event. Admittedly, it is just a scavenger hunt, but it is really so much more than that. The intrigue of the name—The Quest—draws me in, makes me want to learn more. I reached out to a friend who graduated last May in 2023, and he had no knowledge of The Quest. This implies that it was perhaps not as widespread/common knowledge as we thought. A quest … long forgotten … few remember … It’s begging for someone to dig deeper and learn more about its backstory.
To me, there is no clear way to reconcile with the situation. Am I to go through all four of my years at Brandeis Questless? Surely not. I hope that Brandeis will resume its quests at some point.