Once a month, some friends and I go to this pub-trivia competition. It’s teams of 4, 9 rounds of trivia, in a no-holds-barred, winner takes all, melee of intellectual carnage! (that’s possibly an exaggeration) It’s also a fund-raiser for Rwandan schools, which can be a bit embarrassing to forget when you can’t remember, say, exactly how fast light travels even though DAMN IT, I KNOW THIS! THINK, YOU IDIOT! GOD, THIS IS THE WORST THING EVER… oh, except, ha ha, perhaps being a child of genocide, in an impoverished nation, trying to get a basic education. Right. This is frustrating too, though.
Anyway, last Spring our team made the questions for one of the nights. It was a lot of fun putting it together, but it’s a very different event when you have a personal stake in the questions and people’s enjoyment of them. We didn’t count on the arc that people go through during the course of the evening. It goes like this:
Phase 1: Studious. Focused on the questions. All business. Are they having fun? Who can say?
Phase 2: Had a round of drinks. “These questions are awesome! Whooooo!!” This phase is surprisingly short-lived and leads very suddenly to…
Phase 3: Had a second round of drinks. “These questions suck! Who wrote these?”
Phase 4: I’m losing and that’s someone’s fault. “What the hell?! Why didn’t you accept our answer! We got it right!”
“We were looking for the author of Frankenstein.”
“The answer’s Mary Shelley.”
“You put Shari Lewis. She’s that puppeteer. With Lamb Chop.”
“Exactly! Mary: Shari? Shelley: Shari, but with an L? Seriously?! You’re not going to accept that?! God, you guys are being such rule Nazis!” (Storms off)
At the end of it we were a little battered; a little worse for wear. So then recently the woman who runs it said she would be out of town and asked if we could write the questions again. No pressure, but if we didn’t, then she’d have to cancel the evening and then a bunch of adorable children would be thrown out of school in Rwanda. So, fine. We figured that, one, we’d make our categories as fun as possible. Then, two – and most importantly – Dave, the local radio personality who reads the questions, would again bear the direct brunt of the heckling. Our ego’s braced, we wrote up the questions and came to trivia night to give Dave the questions to read, while we’d hide in the back and tally the responses.
Only Dave didn’t show up.
Which meant that with five minutes warning I set up the mic and read the questions. Now, I love performing in public, but with no time to prepare and with the memories of last time still fresh I was… hesitant. “Uh. Hi… everyone. Are you guys ready for some, um, trivia? And being nice to each other?” I was, perhaps, not electrifying at first. But, gradually people warmed up, I warmed up… everyone wound up being pretty pleasant. I got a rhythm going to eat dinner between questions with minimal choking, which was a plus. Even the guy who, last time, went over to someone on a competing team and rubbed some poor guy’s head in his crotch was surprisingly well-behaved (it was some sort of victory taunt. I don’t know).
The phases were still in effect, but much more subdued. The only bummer was the final round – which I made – was comics; we put a panel from a comic strip up on the screen, and they had to name the comic strip. We wanted to end with that one because, hey, who doesn’t love comics?
Answer: people who go to trivia competitions.
Seriously, the mood in the room dropped as if someone had come in saying, “Is anyone here the owner of a little dog? Waiting out front the pub? He has, like, a smooshy face and floppity ears? Real smiley? Because he just died. Anyone? No? Okay, sorry to interrupt.”
They did not know these comic strips and why would anyone and this was just stupid. Not the big finale we were shooting for. It was almost as if things had gone so smoothly, and there needed to be a last little kidney-punch to the ego before we left. Regardless, though, we made it through the phases largely unscathed. This left only phase 5: Get a large drink and complain if people don’t recognize “Pearls Before Swine” well, then, I just don’t know; that’s really their problem. This phase is less common, though.