Sunday, January 31, 2010

Trivia! It keeps me warm.

Long ago, when I was a teenager, and great woolly mammoths roamed the high school campus, I listened to a radio trivia contest one weekend a year. I enjoyed the crazy music that ranged from bad to worse, the mock advertisements for ridiculous and irreverent products, and of course, the trivial questions. (Who were the fairies in Disney's Sleeping Beauty? Flora, Fauna, and Meriweather. Come on, ask me a hard one.)

Then I joined a Trivia team. This was still in the prehistoric times; rotary dial phones! We'd use the tip of a pen to dial the numbers so that our fingers wouldn't get blistered. Really. Books, encyclopedias, and almanacs were our main sources for information that we didn't already possess in our ever-evolving brains. (The hotel in Psycho? Bates Motel, of course. And Janet Leigh hid the money in a folded up newspaper.)

I played for this team until I transferred schools and began attending classes on the very campus that hosted the contest. By then the phones were push-button types, and the woolly mammoths had moved to less populated areas Up North, but our main information sources were still print books. (Winnie the Pooh lived in the Hundred Acre Wood under what name? Sanders.)

Fast forward several years, through contributions to a few more trivia teams, a marriage, and two kids. We now hosted a team in our home. It was a smaller team, not a top three finisher, but we held our own. Proudly, we invited people to share our home with the bunnies and the books and the new technology: cordless phones and Internet access. We still used a radio boom box, a white board for keeping track of team scores, and a spiral notebook for writing down questions. The woolly mammoths had retreated toward Canada in search of glaciers. (In the movie The Blue Brothers, what is the license plate number of the Bluesmobile? BDR529)

Telephones and radio have changed, but the Trivia contest continues. The radio has gone Internet only, which has actually expanded the contest to people in faraway locations that might still have woolly mammoths. Chuck and I no longer compete for the worthless prizes (the prizes have to be as trivial as the questions), but Amigo plays on his own. He listens to the Internet broadcast, searches for answers online, calls them in on the cordless phone or borrows my cell when the cordless' batteries go dead. He and Chuck take a shift at the radio station answering phones to take people's answers -- each team that plays finds a way to make a contribution like this to keep the contest running smoothly. (What was the original name of the Popsicle? The Epperson Ice Pop, or the Epsicle)

Trivia (it needs no other qualifying details; all other contests pale in comparison) is a crazy and fun weekend with no equal. Some people take off for warmer climates in January; we've always stocked up on knowledge, coffee, hot cocoa, and phones. It keeps us warm. (When Frank Zappa was in ninth grade, he won a Fire Prevention poster contest. What did his poster say? "No picnic. Why? No woods. Prevent forest fires.")

I still kind of miss the mammoths.


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