Quick, how many members make up the congressional debt-reduction committee? Why did (fill in the blank) flame-out in his run for president? Where was the epicenter of the Great Earthquake of '11, which cracked nerves and the Washington Monument?
As the fog of time continues to roll, eventually, we may not be able to instantly retrieve the answers. But if you dare play trivia in one of the growing number of local taverns that offer it, you had better bring your A-game. Because this is mental acrobatics at its best. And there ain't a net. And you just might not remember — or care to — that Sara Palin can field dress a moose while piloting a snowmobile to Russia.
I played several times over the summer, most of them at my favorite hangouts, Sullivan's. On Wednesday nights, while the Orioles and Nationals do battle on one of the TV screens in the cozy and colorful bar area, contestants break into teams and try their luck at the art of recalling obscure tidbits, hand-wringing stuff now reduced to a pile of superfluous gunk.
Has trivia night at Sullivan's rocked his world? I reeled the question off to my pal and former student, Brent Debnam, who, even at 21, knew that Elvis' early occupations were electrician, truck driver and Army soldier.
"It hasn't changed my life," Brent replied bluntly, sipping a beer and taking in the relaxing vibe that owner Terrie Haas has breathed into the popular watering hole. "But it forces you to use your mind
Our waitress, Jen Shue, a mother of five, was warm and perky and engaging as she hurled herself into the middle of the discussion. "I play Scrabble every night on my iPhone. It makes me fall asleep," she told us.
As for Haas, the deal she inked with Trivia Maryland, the private group that contracts with area pubs, is money well spent, she believes. Trivia Night creates sizzle, she said, causing customers to make standing appointments to play. "They get asked questions and they get to sit in their little groups. It's a blast."
On another night this summer, playing trivia at a bar on the Delaware shore, I was appalled to discover that the table of players next to us had the unmitigated gall to use a hand-held computer to find answers. Whenever the MC hurled a too-tough question, this young woman wasn't shy about showing off her cheatin' heart. They should arrest her and make Google an accomplice. Thankfully, in all the times I've played at Sullivan's, I've never seen such blatant dishonesty.
"Did you see that?" I asked my partner and neighbor Tom Dwyre, a hard-core triviaphile along with his wife, Linda, that night in Delaware. Linda plays the role of scorekeeper, forever diligent and philosophical. "We're here for the friendship and the fun," she constantly reminds us. More importantly, the cash prizes.
"Yeah, I see that a lot," Tom said, his tone disgusted, his glass of Cabernet half gone. "People know cheating isn't permitted, but they do it."
Tom and Linda's team, dubbed "Sons of Beaches," has walked away with the trophy and cash prizes on more than one occasion down there in the salty sands. Tom, in characteristic fashion, plays down his success. "I know more useless stuff than anybody," he likes to say.
Back on this side of the Bay Bridge, Terrie Haas knows the score. On this Facebook-tweet-text-e-mail saturated earth of ours, the Sultana of Sullivan's understands and appreciates why some of her patrons consciously choose to avoid the predictable pablum on the boob tube and instead try their hand at trivia: "People come to be entertained."
Tony Glaros is a former Laurel Leader staff writer.