Saturday, January 22, 2011

307. We Got Game

I’m not good at game shows. I suck at Trivial Pursuit. Any kind of charades or friendly get-together with a “game night” theme has guests whispering things like, “you take her” or “no, we were stuck with her last time” or “for once I’d like to win, dammit.” So it was a complete shock when The Husband and I stood up at his company’s annual party (theme: Game Night) and enthusiastically volunteered to be contestants.

No one made us do this. In fact, no one would’ve noticed one way or another if we just sat there for two hours, sipping our free Pinot Grigio and stealing extra chocolate mini-eclairs from the buffet table.

But, as fate would have it, word got out about the prizes involved. (Yes—there were prizes.) Turns out, you would automatically win some sort of prize for merely participating. This was my kind of contest (insert flashback here about winning trophies in junior high sports for things like “most improved”, which means you were really really bad to begin with, or “missed the fewest practices”). The grand prize, the paid announcer called out on his static-y microphone, would be a $25 gift card to the Emporium of All That MOV Loves: Target.

I was motivated.

We were put in three teams of three, multiplied by three separate rounds, and then the top teams for each round would compete for the grand prize. My head was spinning just trying to keep up with the rounds and teams and multiples of three, and we hadn’t even answered the first question yet.

Our turn. We strode (yes strode, that’s how winners walk) up to the podium area, which was set up to realistically resemble a TV show, complete with electronic buzzers and flashing scoreboard. The Husband, myself, and one of the Husband’s work colleagues (we’ll call him Brains, because let’s skip ahead, he’s the reason we won), lined up in a neat row, hands poised above our buzzer.

Then the humiliation began. Much like Pavlov’s dogs, we quickly learned that it was not a game of skill, but a game of who could press the buzzer first. We (okay, me) started randomly pressing the buzzer before the announcer had even finished asking the question. This progressed (degenerated?) into pressing the buzzer before he had even asked the question. My nickname rapidly became Betty Buzz-All.

Some questions were super easy, like "Please identify this TV show theme song" (Gilligan’s Island) or "Is a tomato considered a fruit or a vegetable?" (correct answer: fruit). Unfortunately, these were the types of questions reserved for the other rounds in which we did not compete.

I was ready for the high-brow literary questions I anticipated being on the roster, like “Who is Rosebud?” (hint: a sled) or “Which Meg Ryan movie also starred Tom Cruise?” (that would be Top Gun) or even, “name that really famous bridge in Venice, Italy” (Rialto). Instead, we were expected to know the answers to inane things like, “Which team was first awarded the Vince Lombardi trophy and in which year?” Since this was a sports question, and The Husband is a sports fanatic, I assumed (there’s that word) that he would know the answer. I was only helping him out, really, by getting a slight head-start on pressing that buzzer so he could gloriously announce the correct answer (Baltimore Colts, in Miami, 1970). Come to find out, The Husband is not quite so adept at answering sports-related trivia questions after all.

As previously mentioned, we were lucky enough smart enough to have Brains on our team, and thank God for him. He spit out correct answers like watermelon seeds at a summer picnic. He blurted out “Minnesota!” or “Ontario Lake!” or “the color red!” in rapid succession, each time gaining another 10 points for our pathetic excuse for a team (how was I supposed to know we’d get points deducted for wrong answers? that hardly seems fair).

The pressure was on. We had progressed to the point where the announcer was incorporating taped lines from movies or TV shows. I listened carefully with my eyes tightly closed (everyone knows you can improve your sense of hearing, and possibly mental prowess, by closing your eyes tightly) as a gravelly voice mumbled something (a sentence, perhaps just a word) and My Personal Guardian Angel of Game Shows came and sat on my shoulder and whispered the right answer: Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz. Applause rose amidst murmurs of “well, of course” or “I was going to guess that.”

This was, for me, the highlight of the evening. It was to be, sadly, the only question I would get right, thus barely preventing me from completely humiliating my entire team (which was the track I had been on).

Miraculously, we made it to the bonus round. The Husband and his good old buddy/ new best friend Brains got lots of right answers. Enough to cause us to win. We proudly picked up our respective Target cards and I said a little prayer of thanks to my secret helper.

A few minutes later, I went to use the ladies room. After washing my hands, I looked around for where to dry them. I did not see one of those hot air blow-y things, nor did I see a neat stack of paper towels. At last, I noticed one of those electronic motion-sensor paper towel dispensers. I didn’t read the instructions, although I’m sure they said something like “Put hands here, Dummy.” Instead, I boldly, some might say brazenly, waved my hands under the red laser light while paper towels popped out. I smiled, smug. Finally, there was one thing I knew the answer to.

("Matter Of Victory")

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