Thursday, November 15, 2007

A trivial compulsion

I think I discovered a new disease. I’m quite excited about it, and I hope one day to have an enormous wing of a research hospital named after me in recognition of my astounding contribution to the world of medicine.

My disease is called Trivia Tourette’s. Its main symptom? An inability to keep my mouth shut within 50 feet of a trivia question. Lesser symptoms include an unsavory attraction to Alex Trebek, a compulsion to hoard and memorize Trivial Pursuit cards and a willingness to learn dull facts on the off-chance that someday, somewhere, they may end up being the answer to a question no one else knows. I have suffered from this illness for roughly 20 years, ever since I elbowed a kid in the face during Latin class Jeopardy for shouting out, “Quis est Ovid?” before I could, that little show-off.

My Trivia Tourette’s got worse in college where I whiled away hours at the local sports bar playing computerized trivia matches against the other drunken patrons. Strung out on Bloomin’ Onions and Long Island Iced Teas, my friends* and I crushed the competition with our extensive knowledge of Donna Summer songs, Thomas Pynchon novels and words starting with the letter “K.” In my mind, I justified this behavior as the only way to beat down the frat boys and sorority girls who were always cutting in line in front of me at Urban Outfitters. Yes, this was my way of getting back at The Man. Using the mightiness of a midwestern liberal arts education, I smited them roundly each and every night!

And, yeah, they totally didn’t notice at all.

My illness subsided after college only to flare up years later when Regis Philbin and his shiny monochromatic shirts convinced me that I could win one million American dollars just by answering 16 relatively easy trivia questions. Sixteen! I may as well have backed my armored truck up to the stage door right then and there – they were obviously begging to give this stuff away to me.

And thus began my fevered – some would say “shockingly psychotic” -- attempts to become a contestant on Who Wants To Be a Millionare. I answered all the hotline questions. I applied online. I even forced my husband to drive five hours to a contestant search in Chicago where I aced two – yes, two! – question and answer sessions. In the end, they rejected me. Why? Well, one, in my interview I think I may have said something about how I thought unicorns were awesome. (The interviewer totally didn’t get sarcasm.) And two, when faced with a camera and a roomful of people, I become a deer in the proverbial headlights, albeit a deer with extensive knowledge of Eastern European monarchies and the Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch oeuvre.

After that last Millionaire humiliation, I sought to cure myself of the Trivia Tourette’s, avoiding Trivial Pursuit games (okay, actually my husband just won’t play with me anymore) and shunning Jeopardy. Last night, though, it all came flooding back to me as I allowed myself one full half-hour of Alex Trebek and his overpronunciation of foreign words. Answers were flying out of me like pea soup out of Linda Blair. Sure, most of the answers were wrong because it was the tournament of champions and sweet fancy Moses, do they know some seriously ridiculous stuff. When the show ended and I didn’t immediately jump online to submit my application, I knew that perhaps, finally, I might actually be cured.

At least until they launch Who Wants To Be a Millionaire 2.

* It seemed really important for me to note there that I actually did have friends in college. FYI. Just so you know…


Anonymous said...

Ouch. I didn't realize Who Wants to Be a Millionaire was so...selective. How dare they discriminate against the introverted!?

Amanda said...

Preach it, sister.

Have you read "The Know-It-All" by AJ Jacobs?

Liz said...

Yes, it's one of my favorite books. I want to check out his new one, A Year of Living Biblically. Jacobs cracks me up.

Liz said...

Exactly, Anonymous! I would have said something about it at the time except, well, introverted and all.

SFG said...

It's a TV show. They want people with a good camera presence.

It's also possible you did too well, and they didn't want to have to pay out too much money.

Liz said...

SFG, yes, I definitely tried to convince myself it was a conspiracy -- I would have been TOO good. :-)

Seriously, I wouldn't have let me on TV either. Way too nervous and skittish. That's why it's a shame that radio game shows are gone -- we need something for the socially inept to participate in!

Anonymous said...

Watch out for this Liz chick when it comes to trivia. I always prided myself with my ability to store an unlimited supply of worthless knowledge over a period of many, MANY more years than Liz has been on the planet. Set her up for a game of Trivial Pursuit...bought the latest issue of cards, unsealed the box in her presence and proceeded to have my butt handed to me in my own home!

Amazing that someone of such tender age could already have so much junk stashed up there. Pack rat!

L-D's D

Liz said...

That was a day of great pride for me. :-)

SFG said...

No, I've heard that's what they do on Jeopardy. If you do too well they don't let you on.