Trivial Pursuits

ribbon for most memorable story june 2011I reside in a family of the uber-competitive. My husband has twice captured the largest fish trophy during the annual fishing trip. Dad is the best golfer, Step-Mom is the best baker (seriously, best homemade apple pie on the planet), and brother Scotty is hands-down the best story and joke teller. Within the family tribe we have our ace poker players, our lightening-round crossword puzzle champs, and one outstanding bowler (this would be my son Jimmy).

My challenge is—and always has been—that I’m not particularly good at any one thing. I’m not much of an athlete (OK. I have zero hand-to-eye coordination; it’s a good day if I get the pantyhose on straight), I can’t sing, and trust me you don’t ever want to see me try to dance. I could say I excel at making lasagna, but even my success here is attributed to Aunt Mary Ann’s recipe. In summary, I possess very few natural assets that afford me an opportunity to be the best at anything. There is, however, one key exception: amongst my kinfolk I’ve been bestowed the dubious title of Trivia Diva. I may have missed out on the athlete gene, but I can readily recall the 1953 best picture winner (From Here to Eternity) or that Tony Curtis’ real name was Bernard Schwartz. It’s a rather nerdy accomplishment, but I have my moments when I am truly proud of my ability to recall the name of Colonel Potter’s horse (Sophie) or the number of beads in a Catholic rosary (fifty-nine).

Unfortunately, few situations arise where I can utilize my trivia prowess to enhance my standing within the tribe. There is the occasional Trivial Pursuit or Scene It game played over the holidays but, for the most part, I’m relegated to shouting out answers while watching Jeopardy. So, imagine my delight when a family cruise recently presented an opportunity for me to flex my trivia muscle.

Cruises are a wondrous invention, designed to create a make-believe world where you never have to make a bed, cook a meal or pay a bill. No matter what time of day or night, somewhere on these beautiful vessels food, drink, cocktails and entertainment are always available. Throughout each day and evening there are so many activities scheduled that it would be impossible to do everything, and many of these activities take place in the various ship lounges. Conveniently, while you are waiting for the start of a magic show, or an edible fruit and flower-arranging seminar, there are plenty of hovering lounge wait staff who are eager to bring you the yummy drink of the day. Bless this magical cruise ship staff; I would have never had the courage to do what I did on a particular cruise evening had I not been fortified with the “Fruity Rum Runner of the Day”.

The family had gathered in the Lido Deck lounge for an after-dinner drink when we discovered that the Movie and Television Trivia Challenge would soon commence. How could I have possibly missed this contest announcement in the printed daily ship planner? We had to compete. Trivia is my turf! I quickly registered our group as “Team PJ” (my dad’s initials). The contest prize: a cheap cruise bag for each player on the winning team. When I say cheap, I mean very, very, cheap. We’re talking mass-produced recycled thin fiber bags with the cruise line name silk-screened across the front. The quality of the bags didn’t matter. Those bags were a trophy, a shining symbol for me to finally be the best at something, anything. All of this may sound a bit petty, but I had patiently waited 46 years to be Queen of the Hill (well, Queen of the Lido Deck).

Sitting there in the comfy lounge chairs, surrounded by our growing collection of cocktails, mixed drinks and spiked punches, we easily sailed through the first two trivia rounds guided by my knowledge of 1970s sitcoms, Elizabeth Taylor and Sesame Street. However, there was some serious competition assembled in that room. A particularly snarky bunch from the Midwest was actually talking smack to us. I’m not kidding. We were told we were “goin’ down” after it was revealed that Team PJ and Team Buttercow were tied for first place after a particularly grueling set of questions about The Brady Bunch.

For the third round of competition, each team was asked to send one player to the stage to compete for up to 10 bonus points. A bonus round! I literally leapt to my feet. Here was my shot, my chance at glory. The family cheered “Go Kimba!” as I walked to the front of the room and onto the lounge dance floor. Any inkling of stage fright was suppressed by ego and the third Fruity Rum Runner I had just downed.

Once we were assembled and lined up across the dance floor, the perky and chatty assistant cruise director—I swear her name really was Julie (trivia geek shout-out reference to the The Love Boat)— announced that for up to 10 bonus points we would each be re-enacting a famous movie scene. Julie paused for effect. Scenes from famous movies started racing through my mind:

“I could have been a contender.” On the Waterfront.

“Do you feel lucky? Well do ya, punk?” Dirty Harry.

“Say hello to my little friend.” Scarface.

We were all transfixed on Julie when she smiled sweetly and announced that we would be re-enacting THE scene from… When Harry Met Sally. That’s right. I would be faking the ‘big O’ in front of hundreds of people. Including my dad.

Nervous laughter spread across the audience as several players uttered a resounding “Oh, hell no…” and left the stage. Not me. There was no way I would back down from this challenge. I made eye contact with the representative from Team Buttercow and we both knew that this game was on.

First up was a sweet, young newlywed who was so red-faced and so obviously embarrassed that she could barely get out a squeak. Of course, that could have been a genuine rendition of her nocturnal vocalizations, which made it even funnier. There were yells and croaks and various muffled noises as the competition advanced down the line and closer to me. The competitor to my immediate left, a sweet angelic-faced old woman, let out the most ear-piercing wail I had ever heard. It was both horrifying and hilarious.

Finally, the microphone was handed to me; it was my turn to perform. I looked along the edge of the dance floor and saw sweet elderly couples who looked way too much like my grandparents. At a table near the right side of the dance floor sat a group of twenty-somethings who very much resembled my son and his college friends. And there, at the left side of the parquet dance floor, kneeling down so as to not block anyone’s view, was my grinning husband—holding a video camera.

I turned to Julie and begged her to let me turn my back to the audience. There was just no way I would ever be able to do this if I had to face my dad, who was right there in the audience, I explained. My plea got a big laugh from the crowd and one rather loud, incredulous gasp. Julie took pity on me and allowed me to turn around.

I took a deep breath, swallowed my pride and did my best rendition of “Yeah Baby!” I scored nine out of 10—the judges deducted one point because apparently my last “Oh God” was not particularly convincing.

When all the contestants had finally finished and the last “Yippee” was groaned, I shamefacedly walked back to my group where some greeted me with a standing ovation while most were still doubled over with laughter. I never thought I would ever be the best at anything in my family. However, at that moment it didn’t matter that I wasn’t the fastest or the smartest or the best cook. I had just completely humiliated myself in front of a room full of strangers just to ensure my family could win a ridiculous trivia contest and some silly, useless bags. I realized the people I love adored me not because I was the best at something, but because I was willing to do anything for them.

But I was the best at something. I won the contest—and those ridiculous bags. Team Buttercow screamed for a re-match; sore losers the whole bunch of them. My cheap-yet-priceless cruise bag now hangs in my kitchen pantry. Every time I open the door, it puts a smile on my face. That bag, that silly bag, forever trumps the family’s biggest fish, best hole-in-one, or most delicious apple pie.

Kim DalferesKim Dalferes is currently finishing her first book I Was in Love with a Short Man Once. Trivial Pursuits is one of the stories from the book section entitled The Rest of the Stories. The book includes her adventures as: a young girl of limited means growing up in South Florida; a managing by the seat of her pants college co-ed; a single working mother; a federal official; a public speaker; and a second-time-around wife. She currently lives, works, and writes in Fairfax, Virginia with her husband Greg, dog Taz, and occasionally her son Jimmy, when he is home from college.

  39 comments for “Trivial Pursuits

  1. Another fun story Kim! Thanks for reminding me why I’ll never take a cruise! Sounds like it’s a floating version of Friday night Kayoke at the local pub…
    Looking forward to seeing that video on our next visit.

    • Oh Kathy, everyone should try a cruise at least once!  Nice way to see parts of the world you might never get to otherwise.  How goes “Get Off the Couch, Potato”?  Hope it’s selling. 

  2. 1981.  A trivia video machine at a bar where people too young were having drinks…

    Thanks for he memories!

  3. Love, love, loved this story……… I could
    see the whole thing playing out before my eyes. 
    I literally laughed out loud when you referenced Greg kneeling down at
    the edge of the dance floor poised and ready with video camera in hand.  You go girl…… here’s to the big
    “O” and here’s to you. 

    • Thanks for the comment Karen.  And, for the record, Greg’s video will NOT be going public!

  4. I don’t think I have ever connected to a writer as easily as I have connected with Kim. She makes it easy for me to feel the emotions that she projects so well in her writing.
    thank you for a very entertaining (and reminicent) story.
    Frank Montrose

  5. I thought this was going to be about a trivia loss for the plastic trophy of the ship – but oh how your words placed me at the scene of your big ‘O’ performance.  Tears in my eyes.  I can’t wait to read your book. 

    • Thanks for the read and the comment.  Working on the book as much as I can and hope to finish with the final edits this summer.  If my “real” work would just stop getting in the way…. tell the boys their cousin Taz says hello.

  6. I love that everyone who knows Kim can relive this moment here! Thanks for your comments!

  7. Another awesome story Babe !  You soooo perfectly recreated that moment on the cruise.  You really are an amazing writer …. So proud of you !!!

    P.S. DVDs of this performance will be available at intermission for a nominal fee.

    • Thanks for the comment Didi.  So, have you sent that photo in to National Geographic yet? 

  8. Ms. Dalferes is an incredible writer and best When Sally Met Harry actor yet.  We also want the video version.  Where is the next story?

  9. Great comments so far! As a child of traveling musicians, I was exposed to the “Name that Tune & Trivia” game two, three even four times a weekend. This story reminded me of those days. The stunts he had were pretty crazy too. Guess “itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini” and you, for extra points must…. and then Tony gets his briefcase… wear this – and pulls out a yellow polka dot bikini. This story is told in my memoir (still in progress) – but reading your story really reminded me of being in the audience and helped me reflect on some things. Great job all around. This was a fun piece for summer!

    • “As a child of traveling musicians”; I bet there are quite a few stories there, and I bet your memoir will be wonderful.  Maybe we can compare notes sometime…

  10. This writer has a real talent for finding humor in everyday life. Can’t wait to read the long awaited book, even though I’ve read a lot of Kim’s stories, I’m always amazed at the new chapters of her life.

    • Thanks for the comment Vicki and the support.  Hoping to have the book done and available in the fall.  You’re definitely on the list for an autograph copy! 🙂

  11. What a hilarious story! I could picture every scene, every facial expression. This writer has talent and I can even see her doing stand-up. But that would be the readers’ loss so I hope she continues to share her unique view of life with these belly-laugh-provoking stories.
    Bravo and give us more!
    Terry Blackwell

    • Thanks for your comment Terry.  I LOVE stand-up comedians because they are such great storytellers.  However, not sure I would ever have the guts to try.  I do have one story in the book about winning an open-mic night in college – but, I was a bit braver in college!

      • PS – and I just received the postcard announcing Marion’s book, “Blue Locusts”, about to be published!  So exciting, can’t wait to order and receive my copy.

  12. Since I am also competent of my many things and master of none I can understand the
    thrill of winning anything.  Will her husband believe the real “O’???

  13. I can relate.  I also get by by being OK at most things, but not great at any one thing.  Your story represents the feelings I’ll bet we all have that share this lot in life.  Realistic, presented in a hilarious way, and yet very true to my life.
    Keep writing.  Will love to read your book and any of these stories along the way.

  14. Kim, that was hilarious…especially since my past life was working on cruise ships as an Ass’t Cruise Director. That brought back so many memories of trivia fights I had to break up (usually over a key chain). Congratulations on the win, you earned it. You had me laughing at my desk as my colleagues looked at me like I was crazy. Great way to start the day, thanks!

    • Carmen, I bet your life on the cruise ship would make a great basis for a book – have you thought about that?  Would love to have some fun coming up with some book titles for you…

  15. I really enjoyed this piece – it was both realistic and funny! I see a lot of promise for this writer!!

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