October 03, 2007

Benefits of a Canadian Education, #216

Although Emerson itself prohibits intoxication of any kind while on campus, that can't stop its grad students from going to the bar directly across the street from campus to get boozed up – and, indeed, it doesn't.

The Tam is a real dive, full of the smell of disinfectant and authentic American bar paraphernalia (neon Bud signs, neon Pats signs, bouncers with thick New England accents). There are plenty of other bars around Emerson that are plainly nicer, but the charm of the Tam lies, I think, in its cheapness ($2.50 a beer!) and the fact that you can be almost guaranteed to find someone you know there. Also, on Tuesday nights at 9pm, they have a Trivia night.

Every week the Writing program fields a team called "Grandma's Hot Friends", which starts off with a core of five or six people but subsumes any straggling students who walk in after class finishes at 9:45pm, so it often ends up being ten or fifteen. Normally I would be one of the stragglers, but last night my instructor let us out early so I persuaded a handful of my classmates to form a splinter group. Thus was born "The Evil Lincolns," much to the horror and affront of GHF.

The night started off well – we swept the first round with a perfect score, tying for the lead and beating out GHF. Suddenly they were looking over at us with contempt in their eyes. This was serious business. At first our defection was just a bit of fun, but now we solemnly realised that anything other than victory over GHF would irreparably brand us as overzealous upstarts.

Round two saw our first misstep. The question was, "On which river does Baghdad lie?" I immediately said the Tigris, but the rest of the group were unanimous that the answer was the Euphrates and I bowed to the majority (since I was only 90% certain). What folly!

One interesting aspect of this trivia night (something I've never seen in a trivia night before) is that you may bid how many points you want to win for a correct answer. Each round has four questions (plus a bonus question) and four potential bids (one, three, five or seven points); you get to use each bid once, so the strategy lies in bidding high on the questions you're sure of and saving the low bids for guesses.

Well, so seductive was the sway of the majority, we wasted our seven-pointer on the Euphrates, which was, of course, wrong. Even worse, GHF let out a cheer as the correct answer was read out. We were sick with defeat. These were indeed Tigris Tam Ills.

This started us in a downward spiral and by the final round were languishing in fifth place, nearly forty points behind GHF. Then came the final question. Much like Final Jeopardy, the final round can make or break your fortunes: you may bid any even number of points between two and twenty, but a wrong answer will lose you half your bid, so there's a potential thirty point swing to be had. We could never catch up to GHF, but we waited for the question with baited breath: at the very least we could catapult ourselves into a winning position (prizes are awarded to first, second, third and fourth places).

Our bid – twenty, naturally – was already marked on the answer sheet as the question was read out:

"Which Canadian province was the last to join the confederation, in 1949?"

Suddenly all eyes were on me. These were Americans, bear in mind; they knew nothing about Canada. As someone who had spent several years there, I was their only hope. I had a strange inkling that it was one of the eastern provinces, and I started to list them in my head. Nova Scotia... Prince Edward Island... New Brunswick...


If you had asked me straight up when Newfoundland had joined the confederation I would have looked at you with a blank stare, but for some reason 1949 felt linked to Newfoundland in my head (I will refrain from making a joke about it being the cumulative IQ of the island's population, as my ex-editor has often told me off for Newfie-bashing). We wrote it down and took the answer sheet to the compere.

Minutes passed as he tallied the final scores.

Finally he began to announce the final, winning positions. Our fingers ached from several minutes of being crossed.

We weren't in fourth.

We weren't in third.

But then: "In second place, the only team to get the final question right" – see, I wasn't just being judgemental when I said Americans know nothing about Canada – "The Evil Lincolns!"

Much cheering and happiness ensued. We hadn't managed to beat GHF, but in our triumphant finale we had narrowed their lead to just a few points and shown ourselves to be truly Trivial adversaries. They graciously applauded our efforts as we accepted our prize of twenty dollars. (They won thirty, but whereas our team had only five members theirs, by this point, had almost fifteen – so who were the real winners?)

Now, to work!

1 comment:

Claire said...

"Who were the real winners?"

Well, GHF were the real winners. Because we really got more points than you. And all the other teams.

Also, at the beginning of the evening, I got a free beer out of the GHF kitty (market value: $4.50 + tip). So definitely some winning going on there too.

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