My little brother recently came East for a weeklong visit. His only two requests before arriving were 1. Whales 2. Pub Quizzes. The whales thing was all too easy to accommodate: New Bedford Whaling Museum, Mystic Aquarium, Boston Whale Watch. The pub quiz was a bit trickier but we had the quarterly pub quiz at the Providence Athenaeum, The Wild Colonial Pub Quiz, and Stump Trivia at Union Station. Unfortunately, the LOST finale kept us from Wild Colonial Pub Quiz, and my brother left town on Wednesday (night of Stump Trivia) to visit another friend, so that left us with the Athenaeum as the sole quiz.
I started going to the Athenaeum Pub Quiz a little over a year ago because I like to support libraries, sit in beautiful, historic buildings, and because it’s $10 for all you can drink. In the 90 minutes a typical quiz lasts–I can drink a lot. It’s good value.
The drawback is that it’s not a good quiz–ever. There are no prizes (I don’t care too much about prizes, but it’s nice to have something) except for first place. The prize for first is that you get to write the next quiz. What this leads to is trivia that is not general knowledge, or things you could make an educated guess at, but rather ridiculous, high-brow questions that no one knows, and that make the whole endeavor very un-fun.
I tried to warn little brother about this before we went. I told him that we would most likely come in last place, as we usually do, and that mostly we go for the hootch. He didn’t get it, and has happened every time I’ve gone to this quiz, with a number of different friends, we start to get frustrated, a bit drunk, and heckle.
Last quiz, there was a category of questions all in French. This wasn’t common, you might be able to figure it out based on a working knowledge of romance languages French, it was “write me a sentence in French.” Well, I cannot do that because any French I know is based solely on ordering in a restaurant, or not getting ripped off by a cabbie.
This time around, there was a question about the Icelandic volcano, the question was, “Can you correctly spell the name of that Icelandic volcano?” We answered, “no, we cannot,” which answers the question perfectly as it was asked. However, humorless WASPS do not care to be told they write quiz questions poorly, and we didn’t get that one right.
As we languished in last place, all the other players started treating our table like the adorable, scrappy orphan table. We’d read our score out loud, and there would be a collective, “Aw.” The guy one table over from us, started giving us an encouraging “You’ll do better this round, guys.”
It was all incredibly obnoxious because we aren’t twelve years old, but were made to feel that way pretty much the entire night.
It was such a strange situation because in my real life, I’m actually starting to embrace this being a grownup thing. People come into the library and look at me as an ultimate authority. Other staff defer to me when they have questions. Gentleman Scholar has two masters degrees from Ive League schools, and little brother wears a suit every day to work. We didn’t roll in there on razor scooters, wearing hoodies then sulk in the corner, yet, I felt like we were sitting at the kids’ table all night.
Reflecting back on previous quizzes, it’s always a bit like this. This was certainly the worst in terms of pure, unfiltered condescension, but there’s always some. When asked by a lady why we had done so poorly in the French round, I replied “Je suis fatigué.”
“If you can say that, why didn’t you answer any questions correctly?” she asked.