A Trivial Mistake
I want to know who the person was who thought “tell about your most embarrassing moment” was an appropriate team building exercise. Can we collectively re-evaluate this decision? First, how do I comb through the hall of stored cringey memories and choose the worst one? There isn’t a Dewey Decimal system for this shit. I don’t rank them as they happen and put them in their corresponding aisles – I’m too busy tormenting myself with the agony of the residual discomfort (which, when possible, I make worse than the actual moment). We don’t need to go opening up old perseverations or revealing how small and ordinary something can be for me to find it embarrassing. Ain’t nobody got time to explain how a look, a pause, or a suggestion can still be classified as an emotionally scarring experience. Mark this as the beginning of the movement to never ask this question.
But while we’re here and I brought it up, you better believe I’m going to drag you through one with me. Gird your anxious loins.
I have One Friend at work – we started at the same time and she’s just like me except in outspoken extrovert form. So really she’s nothing like me but we’re both in the LGBT group and she’s the only person I regularly talk to. She actually participates in the wider work community though and she planned an event for National Coming Out Day - pub trivia - an event that combines absolutely all of my weaknesses. As Kaitlyn aptly asked, “Why did you sign up for it? You don’t know anything.” We’ll look past the insult to my total intelligence and look at the kernel of truth she intended – I know absolutely no trivia.
You know how Tig Notaro has that show Under a Rock where she doesn’t know celebrities? That’s me, except with trivia. While my brain is on constant analysis of the world and society and psychology and the meaning of life, I’m terrible with facts. I can rock the hell out of an existential crisis but ask me to play Trivial Pursuit and it all falls apart. I use Google purely to learn how to do things, not to learn more information about random stuff. I perpetually gloss over all things history and don’t really have any sense of exactly when things happened in time. The amount of trivia I can spout off can be counted on one hand. At one point, Kaitlyn paused one of our conversations to ask, “You do know basic biology, right?” That’s the aura of knowledge I exude into the world. While with other things in life you can fake it ‘til you make it, trivia is something you either know or you don’t. Either that or you have enough other trivia knowledge to be able to make some kind of reasonable guess.
So why the hell did I put myself in this situation? 1) I can’t not support One Friend and 2) the prizes were gift cards to the company swag store.
I’ve never gotten over my love of free swag. In college I realized, “I’ll do anything for a free t-shirt,” which is as desperate as it sounds but at a school like BYU means wild things like participating in the world’s largest water balloon fight. What I should’ve said is, “It takes a free t-shirt to get me to do any social activity.” Fast forward 15 years and this is an area of immaturity I haven’t outgrown.
It’s enough to get me to commit. One Friend was obviously busy hosting this event so I signed up as a solo player to get randomly matched with another team. I figured anyone who signed up would have stronger trivia skills – surely there were enough people to compensate for my lack of knowledge and could carry us on the road to victory. That or there had to be participation prizes, right?
The announcement for the event had the note that even though it was for National Coming Out day, it’d be general trivia, as could be found in the regular Trivial Pursuit categories. I spent two hours before the virtual event frantically googling sample trivia questions, hoping to somehow compensate for 30 years of lack of knowledge in 120 minutes. 95% of the questions I read I didn’t know the answer to, nor did I recognize the names or have any place to file away dates and numbers in my mind to possibly retrieve them later. I knew my efforts were futile but I hoped there would happen to be a couple questions I knew the answer to. Okay, one. I just wanted to know the answer to one question.
The way virtual trivia works is the whole group starts off in the main Zoom room where the host reads the question and then you’re broken off into breakout rooms for 5 minutes to discuss and submit your answers. To start, we all joined our rooms to practice the setup just to make sure we were all in the right place. Teams had been divided out evenly, but it turns out two of the people in my group didn’t show up (50% of my safety net!). If there's a singular moment where I knew without a doubt this whole thing was a grave mistake, this is the one. There were only two others, and one about as soft spoken as me. What’s worse is that they were both part of my larger team – in that terrible spot of not being comfortable around them but still definitely going to be interacting with them fairly regularly in the future. Immediately I felt the gravity of my mistake and more than a dozen times considered the option of just flat out leaving the call with no explanation.
We started into the quiz questions and it was exactly what I had expected . . . and yet so much worse. I knew 2% of the questions but it turns out they were all LGBTQIA+ related. So I guess the posting was accurate in that it wasn’t exclusively about “coming out” but I felt so deceived. Never once in my googling had I added LGBT to the search. Again, I feel like this perfectly summarizes my trivia prowess.
What’s probably the worst part is that I was the token gay in my group. I was the sole community representative, these are MY PEOPLE, and I still tanked. It was also kind of this unspoken thing that I should be the one to carry the team. Even in the best of circumstances I can’t handle that kind of pressure.
It was an hour and a half of repeated acknowledgement that I know nothing mingled with the incredibly awkward small talk that surrounds making blatant guesses in the dark. I really hate not knowing things and looking like a fool and it was exactly that. Let me repeat. . .for 90 minutes.
“What kind of questions did they ask?” Kaitlyn asked when she got home after I had already sent her a slew of in-the-moment-panic-texts. By that point I had already blocked most of them out – the details are irrelevant – but here’s a few just to give you the flavor.
Label each of the twelve LGBTQIA+ flags – I knew 3 and couldn’t even muster all 12 possible options. 0/9 for my guesses.
Where was the first pride parade? My coworker got it (New York) after correcting me that it was definitely NOT San Francisco and I was dumb for thinking it possibly could be (emphasis hers, insult mine). 0/21
When did the APA remove homosexuality as a disorder? The one I most confidently (and pessimistically) incorrectly guessed was the oldest date, 2001. We had even moved to multiple choice at this point. 0/45
Identify the artist and song based on 5 second song clips (I got the only one that had the song title as the opening lyrics). 1/89
The only questions I confidently got correct were about Ellen DeGeneres and David Rose in Schitt’s Creek. Feels on brand.
Needless to say, our team came in last, scoring little more than half of the points of the winning team. And no, there were no participation or worst scoring team prizes. All I walked away with was another cringey memory to add to the embarrassment pile and hours of residual social anxiety (including all that came back in writing this). No wonder I don’t have any mental space for trivia. This library’s already full.