The things you learn

March 16, 2013

If you want to feel intellectually humbled, agree to be a member of a team competing in a trivia competition.

On March 8, 20-plus teams, each with eight members, congregated at Three Rivers Auction in Washington for Washington Rotary Club’s annual Charity Trivia Contest. I was the new kid on the block. My teammates were veterans of contests past and were Observer-Reporter employees or spouses of same.

Of course, when I was asked to be a member, my first inclination was to begin pounding as much minutiae as I could into my brain. As the day approached, I felt confident. But as the competition began to unfold, I realized you can’t “study” for a trivia competition.

Had they asked how many ridges in a dime?, I would have whispered to my teammates, 118. Had they asked what direction bats turn when exiting a cave? I would have proudly said left. And had they asked who was Thelma Pickles? I would have pumped up my chest and spouted, “John Lennon’s first girlfriend.”

But no, we, meaning all teams, had to answer questions about the musical “Hair,” zombies, acronyms, sports, pirates (not the baseball team), Pennsylvania icons and television. There were a few more categories, but I can’t remember them.

Surprisingly, our team did quite well in the zombie category. Why, I don’t know, but we did. All I remember about that category was that Francois Duvalier, who liked to be called Papa Doc, was supposed to have commanded an army of zombies, or so he led his people to believe.

We did OK when it came to acronyms, getting 3M (Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing); M.A.S.H. (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital); and POTUS (President of the United States). We faltered on HIPAA, mostly because we thought it was HIPPA.

For the record, it stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Now, when it came to the musical, “Hair,” we were hit and miss. I think we got the year when it opened on Broadway correct (1968) and when the nudity appeared (end of first act), and I felt comfortable suggesting the lyric order in the song was “long, straight, curly, fuzzy, snaggy.”

We got a couple of questions right about pirates. One well-read member knew Edward Teach was the real name of Blackbeard, and another team member ( I think it was a guess) said the word avast meant “stop.”

When it came to television we all knew Milwaukee was the home of ”Laverne and Shirley” and “Happy Days” and that Otis was the town drunk in the “Andy Griffith Show.”

Our team missed out on which Alou brother of baseball fame was the oldest (it was Felipe) but we knew it took 12 consecutive strikes to bowl a 300 game.

At the end, our team tied for fourth, 18 points behind the winning team and I wasn’t sure I would be asked to return next year as a team member. I was assured however, I would, since I knew milk was the official beverage of Pennsylvania.

Oh, by the way, did you know Winston Churchill was born in a ladies’ room during a dance?

Jon Stevens is the Greene County bureau chief. He can be reached at



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