We won! We won! We won! Last night Kevin and I, and my friends Chris and Birthe won the annual pub quiz hosted by the university’s English department. You could say that we were at an unfair advantage over the other teams. After all, most of them were German and there were three native English speakers on our team – four, if you consider that Birthe’s English is almost perfect. But there were lots of teams made up of native English speakers, and they didn’t win. ‘Cause we won!
When it comes to pub quizzes, it’s all about picking the right team, or Gemeinshaft, as they call it over here. I picked my team very carefully. I knew that anything having to do with an English-speaking country was fair game, so I chose accordingly. We had Chris batting for the English, Kevin for the Canadians, me for the Americans, and Birthe, who’s German, pick up the slack for all the wild-card European questions. (Really, Chris and Birthe are pretty much my two best friends here in Würzburg.) We really needed one more person, preferably someone from Wales. There was a disproportionately large number of Welsh-related questions, owing to the fact that the organizer himself was Welsh. “What is the surprising ingredient in laver bread?” for instance. Or, “What is the English translation for the Welsh motto, ‘Cymru am byth’?” (The answers: “seaweed” and “Wales forever,” respectively.)
Still, we did our countries proud. We were ahead from the very first round and maintained our lead to the bitter end. Kevin covered science and politics (Q:“Which two Nobel prizes were awarded to Germans this year?” A. “Chemistry and Physics”). Chris did all the heavy lifting when in came to sports. And Birthe was responsible for identifying all the obscure European personalities. And me? Well, my specialties run the gamut from high to low. I successfully answered such brainteasers as “Who painted ‘The Nightwatchmen’?” and “Who is the on-again, off-again girlfriend of England’s Prince Harry?” (Rembrandt van Rijn and Miss Chelsea Davy, respectively.) I also got both parts to the final question, “For what two films did Dustin Hoffman win an Academy Award for Best Actor?” The answer: Rainman and Kramer v. Kramer – not Tootsie and The Graduate as our opponents so foolishly guessed. So I guess you could say that I won. I won! I won! I won!
Obviously, I have a penchant for trivia games; it’s the only sport I’m any good at. Back in Boston, when I was just starting out after college, my friends and I used to go to the weekly pub quiz at the bar near our office, where we were all slaving away as unpaid interns. The prize for winning was always $60 – just enough to cover our dinners and beer. So, naturally, we all tried really hard to win. And we did win – every week for six weeks in a row. We were kind of famous. The other teams feared us. Once, our winning score was twice as big as the second place team’s. That’s how good we were. And then one week, a new team appeared. They were interns, too – medical interns. And they destroyed us. We never went back.
And so, it was very satisfying to finally win a pub quiz again, even if we only won by one point. Hey, we won. Birthe was so excited she did a little victory dance. She said she had never won anything before. Afterwards, we took our winnings – 50 euro – and blew it all on beer and cab rides home in the wee, wee hours of the morning. Nothing gained, nothing lost, I guess. Except our self-respect.