Sunday, September 25, 2005

Help Wanted: No Experience Required

Quiz Nights are a legendary British pub institution, and that being the case, I decided I had an obligation to suss out just what this tradition was all about--plus, now that winter's coming on (yes, the heat's been on in our house since last week) it was time to seek out a fun new indoor activity that would provide a respite from those cold, rainy nights ahead. In NY, we often sought winter refuge in the lanes of BowlMor, but surely my trivia aptitude would prove at least slightly more promising than my ten-pin skills. Warming to the idea, it struck me that maybe I'd finally found a hobby I could excel at--after all, French study, gardening, cooking and recently, yoga, had proven unsuccessful (and let's not mention my hazardous forays into golf, pool and darts). Mental challenges really were more my speed, and besides, hadn't I always fantasized about being a contestant on Jeopardy?

And so it was that we found ourselves on Monday night at the charming Duke of Clarence, which my research had revealed to be home to a renowned Quiz Night with a hilarious Aussie quizmaster, ex-Neighbours star Andrew Burns, whom the promo materials said "would bring shame on those who do not know the date of Elvis' birthday". (Neighbours, apparently, is a hugely popular Australian soap opera.))

Arriving early to secure a table, we fortified ourselves with some dinner and a couple pints of Hoegarden to stave off our encroaching nerves. While optimistic about our potential, we certainly weren't holding out unrealistic hopes that our team, The Reluctant Anglophiles, would win the the first prize of a free dinner for four--at least on our initial attempt. Being newbies on the Quiz circuit and knowing not a whit about British sports teams, B-list celebrities or any of the many bad TV shows that clutter the airwaves here certainly put us at a disadvantage and we knew we had our work cut out for us. Little did we anticipate just how much work that was.

At the start of the evening's festivities, our nervousness ratcheted up a notch when we noticed that most of the teams seemed to be returning regulars to whom the Quizmaster gave a warm and hearty shout-out. Futhermore, we learned there was an energetic and ongoing rivalry for first place between the Gloucester Roadies and the Mad for Marmites. Not to be deterred, we ordered another round of Hoegardens to fortify ourselves. Happily, Round One brought with it many questions that revolved around American topics and general knowledge, putting us on more equal footing with the locals. Or so we thought.

In any case, I am proud to report that we started off impressively, whipping breezily through questions such as "What war was MASH set during?" and "Who is the man seated next to Gorbachev in Photo Two?" At half-time, teams exchanged papers for grading and we were thrilled beyond our wildest expectations that we'd scored 17 of a possible 20! (Let it be known that we were ROBBED of an extra point thanks to Steve, a V.P. of Currency Options for Morgan Stanley, not knowing the name of the Bulgarian currency.) It was then--in the midst of our heated battle about this critical and unnecessary point forfeit--that Round Two commenced and things started to go rapidly and irrevocably downhill.

The trouble began when we stumbled on "What U.S. state is considered the Home of Dixie?" and ended forty minutes later by me mistaking Wayne Newton's jawline for that of Celine Dion in Photo Ten. In between, we managed to score a whopping three points during Round Two, bringing our final tally to 17 of out 40. We asked for our bill and prepared to skulk out in defeat, but not before doing a doubletake in disbelief that our Hoegarden count had risen to six pints, which might very well account for our rapid decline in Round Two. (Perversely, at BowlMor, our score was always aided by our cocktail intake.)

I wish I could say that our agony ended there, but alas, it did not, because on top of our failure of immense and embarrasing proportions, I managed to inadvertently commit a critical Quiz Night faux pas.

When the Quizmaster came round to collect the score sheets, I asked to hold on to mine for blog purposes, innocently having no idea that, in addition to reading the winning team names, he also made a practice of giving a dressing-down to the lowest-scoring teams as well. Our score of 17 certainly would have put us at the bottom of the bottom-dwellers, but instead, our two neighboring tables (who'd both scored rounds of our answers and knew how abysmally we'd performed) got the dubious distinction of being called out as The Biggest Losers, despite their rather more respectable scores of 24 and 28.

When this transpired, they turned to cast the Evil Eye on The Reluctant Anglophiles, accusingly pointing and shouting, like we were all back in fourth grade, "They didn't hand in their sheet!" Now it's no secret that British people love their rules, but even moreso, they absolutely hate to lose (a sad irony given the performance of their sports teams) and worst of all, they HATE being embarrassed and will go out of their way not to have any negative attention drawn to themselves. So by inadvertently committing this small breech in Quiz etiquette for the sake of this posting, we're now forced to avoid Quiz Night at the Duke of Clarence until things cool off for awhile. And frankly, perhaps that's for the best, at least until we've boned up on our recent purchase:
Please note my new 'notify me' feature on the right, where you can enter your email address to be automatically notified when the Reluctant Anglophile has been updated.


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