Bar side at Pizzeria Uno on some random Sunday evening is an awfully strange setting for a two-on-two deathmatch. Yet – that is exactly the spine-chilling predicament Mookie* and I found ourselves in a couple weeks back – as a peaceful little bout of online trivia took a turn for the bloody.
Allow me to set the table. Mook and I decided to meet up for a quick dinner in a chain restaurant with pub atmosphere and 80 tons of Yard Sale sand blasted across the walls. With our strict criteria in place, the debate began. Applebee’s or TGIF? Uno’s or Sonsie? Six of one – half a dozen of the other.
Anyway – Uno’s gained the edge through one inescapable fact – they have wireless trivia. Yeah, I know, Sonsie does have one kick-ass Golden Tee machine but that’s bush league. The trivia bug bit.
So Mook and I belly up to the bar – order up a couple pints of their finest Smuttynose – and ask the waitress if she would be so kind as to deliver us a couple wireless Playmakers (registered trademark – National Trivia Network – NTN). Beers in hand – machines at the ready – we enter our personal 4-1-1 and it’s ‘go time.’ Everything’s going smoothly. Mook and I jockey for position a couple times. I pull out a ‘Tom Selleck was the original choice for Indiana Jones’ – and he counters with ‘Magnesium is both an Element and a Dairy Product.’ It continues like this for several rounds – during which the waitress keeps a steady stream of Buffalo Pizzadillas flowing while regaling the bar regulars with details from the days of her life. Little did we know that news she had just received her stethoscope would play a pivotal role in the moments to come.
After a short spell – midway through a 15 Question Round – the doorway was darkened by two new digital desperados. They ambled through – throwing alternating nods and harsh glares at all who dared to look upon their grizzled visage. Finally they settle down at the bar – side by side with Mook and I – their dark Yin to our light Yang.
Ominous portents abound. They order up two ‘Millahhhh Lights’ – their conventional ‘regulah beahhh’ to our fancy college boy ‘Old Smuttynose Brown Dog Ale’. Meanwhile, on a burned out husk of a car – hidden away in the heart of darkness that is Dedham, a lone butterfly flaps it’s wings. A world away, a typhoon swiftly levels Isla Nublar.
The waitress returns with their beers. She glances at us – and as soon as we catch the gaze, she directs our attention to the front door. Her troubled eyes implore Mook and I to beat a retreat. But we’ll have none of that. Finally some new blood. What was past was prologue. We’re writing a new chapter – and I’ll be James Frey if I’m gonna’ mess this up.
We finish the round – and Mook and I look forward to a new round – a blank slate – where we can show these guys that were not to be trifled with.
Round after round flows – and Mook and I absorb body blow after body blow. These are hard core trivia degenerates. They don’t miss a question. In a contest judged not just by a correct answer – but in the speed of answer – they display feats of dexterity of which even the mighty Gods envy. Synapses spark in their brains – sending signals to their index finger in rapid succession – ‘B’ then ‘A’ then ‘C’ then ‘B’. Meanwhile I struggle to change my answer. ‘Benicio del Toro’… er… no… ‘Toro Lawnmowers.’ D’oh!!! We can’t keep up.
Enter the Deus Ex Machina. From ancient drama – it is directly translated – God from the Machine, the hand of god. Essentially – playwrights in long ago times would write an escape clause for their heroes when faced with insurmountable odds. It is – in essence – a cheat. The easy way out.
As the next round began – Mook and I noticed a curious fact. The questions were… repeating. Question after question was one we had had before. Our game of wits had become a simple game of Concentration – with our short-term memory; our guide to the Promise Land. All we had to do was fly through 15 questions – score the record 15,000 points – and depart – leaving Tango and Cash to ponder the existence of their so-called lives. Was life worth living once you relinquished the throne?
The plan was fool proof. Mook and I exchanged knowing winks and stifled giggles (bordering on the schoolgirl variety.) We were stealing candy. We were sleeping in church. We were winning the Best Supporting Actress for My Cousin Vinny. We were getting away with one.
Then comes Question #8. The question they came in on.
“What star of television’s Full House found fame as the director of the Norm MacDonald vehicle, Dirty Work?”
Thing One – “Hey, I think these questions are repeating.”
Ed – (whisper) “Dude, Let’s get out of here.”
Mook – (whisper) “No way, I want to see my name in lights.”
Thing Two – “Repeating? I don’t know about that.” (LOUD) “All I know is, some a-holes want to see their names in lights.”
Ed to self – “Damn you Bob Saget. Damn you to HELL!!!”
At that point – we’re left with one decision. Should we stay or should we go. If we stay, there could be trouble. But if we go, there could be double.
We make our stand. Mook and I leap to our feet. The thugs follow. No further words or pleasantries are exchanged. This is Thunderdome. Four men enter. One man lea… ah, two men leave.
Tossing Playmaker Haymakers with wild abandon – the odds quickly swung in our favor. The quicker our fists landed – the more blood we wracked up. Oh sure – every once in a while we guessed incorrectly – aiming high with our fists (select ‘A’) when we should have gone knee to groin (‘D’).
When we were finished, there were only three things left to do. Drop a fin for the waitress while apologizing for all the ruckus we had kicked up. And most importantly – steal one last glimpse of the NTN scoreboard. Say what – ‘MOOKIE’ is leading ‘EDIDDY’ by 30 points. It was that goddamn Mark Paul Gossalear question that got me (who knew each surviving member of Saved by the Bell served a stint in Sipowicz’ squad room). Blood starts pumping. Breathing slows. The world goes all Matrixy. The 10,000 nm hydraulic pistons that are my arms rise, retract back and lock in place. I regard Zack and Screech with fond affection – pausing slightly to allow my opponent one final infinitesimal moment of pride and prejudice – and then, on my word, they unleash hell.
Oh yeah!!! It’s on.
(*Editor’s Note – Although he lives in Massachusetts, the author is not married to Mookie. He is happily married to his wife Andrea and has two beautiful children. The presence of Mookie in a second straight story is purely coincidental.)