By Monte Lazarus
For those who are masochists I strongly recommend taking an otherwise relaxing cruise, but then entering the daily – sometimes twice daily – trivia contests.
They are not really contests; they are minor wars with teams bitterly fighting for the ultimate prize – a key chain, a lanyard for cruise credentials (or for hanging someone) or a deck of cards. All prizes are made in China, so they are priceless.
In one memorable contest our team wound up in a three way tie with two other fierce competitors. The charming emcee decided to have a single player from each team step forward to answer a difficult question. My sainted brother, presumably for all the years he had to drag me to sports events, movies and other things where I could perform my particular acts of torment, finally got his revenge. He nominated me to represent our team. I reluctantly and modestly, of course, stepped forward.
My opponents were a fine gentlemanly type, seemingly there for pleasure, as I pretended to be; and a middle-aged Tigress. I knew from one furtive sideways glance that she was TROUBLE. I didn’t want to let my beloved team down, so I steeled myself for the dreaded question that would not only determine whether our team won, but also deeply affect my reputation, ego and standing in the eyes of my most important teammate – my older and wiser brother.
Before stating the question the emcee gave us the Marquis of Queensbury Rules… no crying, no punching, no instructions from the sideline. Whoever gave the right answer first would be the winner, and his/her team would receive the coveted prize. We braced ourselves and mentally flashed through every conceivable question – alphabetically, of course. The emcee read the question: “Who was the author of “Dracula?” I glanced quickly at the Tigress and, before she could react, I blurted loudly and confidently: “Bram Stoker.” She was stunned as the emcee hollered “Right!” in his most important emcee voice. The emcee grinned his stage grin as he reached into the treasure trove (I knew full well that he only wanted one thing – to get rid of all of us). My team whooped; my brother gave me his “Well done, kid” grin. The emcee produced the cherished prize – Wow, another keychain! Our joy didn’t last long. The Tigress yelled something obscene, and then screamed loudly that her husband knew the answer and there must be a new question because the whole system was unfair. Fearing for my life as I looked at her bloody fangs, I mumbled, “Ma’am, please take the key chains. I’m sure my team is only interested in fair play. We don’t want any problems.” She refused my kind offer and stormed away. I still have that spectacular keychain.
Here are some tips for those of you who insist on entering into mortal combat in one of these contests:
• Find kind, gentle teammates.
• Try to get Brits and Canadians as teammates; they can answer a lot of the questions about esoteric stuff that us Yanks don’t know about.
• Act nonchalant. Don’t let on that you are a sore loser (as I am).
• Defer to teammates who insist they know the answer even though you know they are wrong. That simple act will preserve your sanity.
• Never say, “I told you so.”
• Try to act sportsmanlike when you lose to a group of nerds. You know they are cruise junkies who have memorized all the questions and answers, but keep it to yourself although you seethe inwardly.
• Keep the key chain. It’s a splendid reminder and a great conversation piece.
We’re going on another cruise soon, and we’ll be teaming up with guys wearing belts and suspenders, and nice ladies wearing print dresses and eyeglasses on cords. If they look like librarians so much the better. I shall look nonchalant, but I’ll be studying my Trivial Pursuit cards well into the three nights…