Trivial pursuits: Useless knowledge comes in handy sometimes

February 2018 Posted in Columnists & Opinion

carl-sampson“I know that!”

“Oh, wait. I thought I knew that.”

“Come to think of it, maybe I didn’t know that at all.”

“I must’ve been mistaken.”

That cycle of thought goes through my head often these days, but never more than when I’m engaged in battle. Not real, hand-to-hand combat, which I would lose to anyone taller than a second-grader. Rather, the battles I’m thinking of take place in a bar.

I should explain.

I’m a newly minted trivia junkie. Nowhere else have I found six-plus decades worth of accumulated useless knowledge so useful. I do trivia quizzes online a couple times a day, and for kicks one of our sons, my wife and I occasionally go to the “big leagues” of trivia at Salem Ale Works. This isn’t a plug; it’s just the only trivia contest I know about and have checked out.

Then we play a hot-and-heavy game of trivia, eat lots of food and have a lemonade or two.

Usually, I find that I’m better at the eating and drinking part than the trivia part.

I can remember that I used to know the answer to a question, but I can’t remember the answer. That is how you lose at trivia.

Trivia also has a way of being addictive. When I was the only guy at the table who knew the kind of speaker ‘60s rock bands like Vanilla Fudge used with their Hammond B-3 organs – a Leslie – then I was hooked. The table looked at me like I was a hero for knowing something any high school kid in the ‘60s would have known.

How many other totally useless factoids do I know that could make me a hero?

That’s the attraction of the game.

But there are times when my memory fails me.

For example, in the movie Casino Royale, what poker hand did James Bond have when he won the game?

“Well, uh, I think it was a good one,” I told my teammates. My wife and I had just watched that movie about a month ago. The poker scene must have taken place while I was checking out the refrigerator.

Anyway, I took a wild guess and was wrong, and missed another chance at trivia stardom.

In fact, there was a whole category of questions about poker that I missed. As it turns out, you could put everything I know about poker and wouldn’t even have the trivia equivalent of a pair of deuces.

But that’s the charm of the game.

Another question was to name 10 of the 15 largest cities in the U.S. whose names don’t have an “A” in them.

Our team did great in that category. The surprises were Columbus, Ohio; Fresno and Riverside, California; and Tucson, Arizona.

But it’s all for fun, and a good excuse to get out of the house on a weeknight.

In the meantime, I’ll keep “studying” by doing what I always do – sitting around reading and stuffing meaningless factoids into my cranium.

And getting ready for the next battle.

Carl Sampson is a writer, editor, author
and not much use in a game of trivia.

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