Hide-and-seek club on University of Alberta campus all about fun (with video)

EDMONTON – Julisa Holtner has a size advantage when it comes to hide and seek.

She can slip her five-foot-two frame into many University of Alberta lockers to escape the keen eyes of people trying to find her.

Adam Pinkoski has been known to leap into blue paper recycling bins to escape notice.

“It’s a huge sweat box,� Pinkoski concedes, since he has to keep the lid shut and perform an awkward squat for 15 minutes if he wants to stay hidden. Stray banana peels are also a stinky hazard.

Pinkoski and Holtner are part of the U of A’s Hide and Seek Club, which draws between 25 and 100 participants Friday afternoons to explore and hide in specific buildings. The aim? Have fun and let off steam in an environment largely associated with academic excellence, seriousness, rigorous study and decisions that can affect the rest of your life.

“It’s so overwhelming,� said Pinkoski, a 20-year-old physical education student who launched the club with friends in 2013. “It’s a bit of fresh air to regress to your childhood again.�

It began that summer when a group of five friends launched hide-and-seek battles in Ikea and West Edmonton Mall. Holtner remembers the best hiding places among the Swedish designs: the large bin full of stuffies, or the bed that folds up, revealing a storage place and handy hiding nook underneath.

In West Edmonton Mall, Pinkoski got a few strange looks when he lay down in the glass elevator, since the bottom portion of the glass was opaque.

Now, university club members pay a $5 annual membership fee — that gets them an identifying bandana — to play the game in a designated university building each week. Off-limits is the building holding the National Institute for Nanotechnology, since it’s filled with sensitive equipment worth millions of dollars. Students also aren’t allowed to hide in bathrooms, in classrooms holding lectures or exams, in science laboratories or private offices. They have to stay quiet, respect property and follow the 10th commandment: Thou shalt have fun.

The club has found hideaway gems. Some people discovered what looks like a dark, abandoned elevator shaft in the basement of the biological sciences building. Pinkoski’s favourite is the education building, since every floor has a different layout. Holtner loves the entire biological sciences building, which was built in the 1960s and, as the story goes, was designed by four architects who didn’t get along, but were influenced by the fear over Cold War nuclear attacks. Every room, supposedly, has two escape routes. But then there are the stories of doors that open to nowhere, and classrooms with no doors where the lights have stayed on for more than 50 years.

“All the first-years are told the horror stories,� said Holtner, a fourth-year paleontology student. “It’s a complete mess of a layout.�

Jenny Fox, in her second year in general sciences, said it’s great to explore all the nooks and crannies of a place that acts as a second home to students, with many spending up to 18 hours a day on campus. Arts students get to know science buildings and vice versa.

Fox once tried but failed to remain hidden behind a column, circling it as the seeker approached. Holtner, with her face well-known as part of the club’s executive team, can no longer hide in plain sight — sitting among a group of people while reading a newspaper, for instance. Participants have to keep their branded bandana visible at all times.

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