Game Show Trivia 101

We were watching Jeopardy last night, and as is my won’t, I was answering the questions aloud, and more often than not, getting them right. My kids asked me how I knew the answers to all those questions. I paused before answering, flashing back to myself as a youngster in a similar situation.

I was pretty young, probably 7 or so. I remember that my mom would always seem to have the right answers to the trivia questions that they asked on game shows. After a suitable period of being really impressed, I finally asked her, “How do you know all of the answers to these questions?” Even then, I wanted to know things, and I figured she would tell me the secret. She did.

“I took class in college on game show trivia,” she said. Those might not have been her exact words, but her response was in that spirit. I had an ah-ha moment. It all made sense now. This was one of the things you learned in college.

Now, I may know a few things, but when I was younger, I took what people said at face-value. My mom was joking, of course, but I didn’t know that. Indeed, her response seemed perfectly reasonable to me. I remember trying to imagine what that class must be like. I decided that it was probably like spelling: each week, you’d get a list of questions and answers that you’d have to memorize, and at the end of the week, there’d be a test. Maybe there would be a buzzer involved.

I am ashamed to admit that I believed this story for far longer than I should have.

The Final Jeopardy question came and it was a surprisingly easy one that I answered for my kids before (the now late) Alex Trebek read it for the contestants. The category was something like, “Literary characters of the 1600s.” I was sort of appalled by the answers the contestants gave, as none of them were from the 1600s. Anyway, my kids were impressed that I got the answer right and asked how I knew all those answers.

After pausing to consider my mom’s answer to that question when I was younger, I was tempted to provide the same answer as a joke. But a better, more truthful answer presented itself to me. In a coincidence, my brother and his family had gotten me a t-shirt for the holidays, and I happened to be wearing that t-shirt as we watched Jeopardy. You can see a picture of me in the t-shirt above, but in case you can’t make out the legend, it says, “I read and I know things. That’s what I do.”

I pointed to my new t-shirt and said, “Well, I read a lot and I know things. That’s what I do.”

About Jamie Todd Rubin

Jamie Todd Rubin writes fiction and nonfiction for a variety of publications including Analog, Clarkesworld, The Daily Beast, 99U, Daily Science Fiction, Lightspeed, InterGalactic Medicine Show, and several anthologies. He was featured in Lifehacker’s How I Work series. He has been blogging since 2005. By day, he manages software projects and occasionally writes code. He lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife and three children. Find him on Twitter at @jamietr.

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