Which animal’s name in Chinese literally means “cat-head eagle?”

The bar is lively tonight.  The home team plays on several screens scattered about the room (go Tigers!), a few people gamble on little machines in the corner, and the jukebox obediently plays a lot of classic rock, which my friends Adam, Eric and I have fun trying and often failing to name. We’re just about the youngest ones here.

Name the New York City buildings that have at least 100 stories as of 2013.

There are six teams for tonight’s first trivia round. We settle in at a high-top round table and fetch an answer card from the emcee.  First things first: team name.  We choose Gnarkill.  I’m not exactly sure why, but apparently there’s an obscure reference to a parody metal band sandwiched in there.  Let’s just say I didn’t come up with the name.

Which  president had daughters named Trisha and Julie?

We tear apart the perforated answer slips, numbered one through ten.  The scoring works like this: you’ll hear a question, decide how sure you are of the answer, then write it on an appropriately-valued answer slip.  Ten points means “we’re super sure this is the right answer and we’ll probably bite someone’s head off if we’re wrong,” and one point means “we’ve literally never heard of the 1964 movie Scotch Tape because we were not, in fact, alive in 1964.  So no, we don’t know who starred in it.”

What is the name of the resort town in the 1975 hit Jaws?

The questions begin, and we’re doing an average job of answering.  We know quite a bit about movies and we’re good at geography, plus we’re pretty good guessers.  I’d say we got half of the questions right.  But at this point, it’s not really about winning. At least, not for me.

Shark Week is the longest running cable event in television history.  In what year did it debut?

What is it, then, that I really like about trivia?  I puzzled over this as we laughed at our lack of NHL knowledge and I, the only baseball fan at the table, tried simultaneously to watch the Tigers game.  Trivia is fun, I realized, because it’s just something to do.  The average twenty-something probably spends several hours a week at a bar or restaurant, and we become experts at reading each situation.  Depending on the setting and the company you’ve chosen, these outings can occasionally be, well, awkward.  Sometimes you’ve just got nothing to talk about, or someone talks too much, or your mother, who you live with, calls you at 11 p.m. wondering when you’ll be home.

Name three movies, all made in the last five years, that made at least $1 billion box office worldwide and whose titles begin with a vowel.

Trivia fixes all of that.  It’s the perfect interruption.  You get three or four minutes to answer each question, so there’s no rush.  It’s easy to hazard a guess and then return to whatever other conversation you were having.  Sometimes the question will even spark a conversation.  Maybe you’ll discover that another friend spent literally all of middle school huddled in his basement playing Nintendo 64, so that’s why he can name every Super Smash Bros. character in alphabetical order.  Okay, that’s just embarrassing.  But still.

What was the occupation of Eric Foreman’s mother in the television show “That 70s Show”?

Back to our round.  It’s down to the wire, and we end up in a tie for first place. I go up as Gnarkill’s representative for a head-to-head tiebreaker.  I’m asked to name the year in which AOL Instant Messenger premiered. I guess a fairly accurate 1995 (it was ’97, but my guess is closer than the other team’s).  Oh, the many hours I spent listening to that screeching dial tone to finish so I could chat with Soccer_Fan76854.  My thirty-something opponent had no chance.

Seal Island, the site of the most shark attacks in the world, is off the coast of which African country?

Victory!  We came, we played, we conquered.  Maybe we weren’t competitive before, we didn’t really care.  But now that we’ve won, it’s everything.  We, the smallest and youngest team, have defeated all challengers in bar trivia.  If I’m being honest, I realized at this point that trivia is fun because I love to be good at things.  And I really love being right.  Trivia is a little corner of the world where anyone can be right about something, no matter how insignificant.

Sure, the $20 gift card we won and subsequently used to buy more cheesy carb fried food than should ever be consumed in one sitting was a perk, but the bragging rights were priceless.


The answers, if you really must know, are:  owl; The Empire State Building and the Freedom Tower; Nixon; Amity Island; 1987; Avatar, Iron Man 3, and Alice In Wonderland; a nurse; South Africa.

1 Comment

  1. jenn langefeld

    This brings back memories of so many trivia games! How you never know which teammate will have a lock on that next answer, or what tiny patch of life you just happen to be an expert in. I think it was those moments of tiny expertise that made it a thrill for me… and the bragging, of course. Definitely the bragging.


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