Sunday, July 16, 2006

Something annoying in the air

If anybody deserves a raise, it’s the person who invented stadium seating in movie theaters. Next in line would be the person who decided to put Cranium on airplanes. Last week, the short flight that my wife Kara and I took from Philadelphia to Charlotte featured a silent slideshow of trivia questions from the popular board game, which kept me so entertained that I completely forgot to defend my turf by bracing my knees against the seat in front of me after take-off, allowing the lady in front to recline her seat until her Aqua Netted hair was tickling my nostrils.

I hardly noticed, though. Trivia is the supreme outlet for a lifetime’s worth of useless information, and there’s no better time for it than when you’re a captive audience, strapped to a tiny chair with a screen directly in front of your face, the only thing separating you from the guy in Clockwork Orange being a lack of eyeball clips, and maybe a tiny bag of pretzels. Two bags if you’re a charmer.

Kara entirely failed to appreciate the genius of this perfect time-killing diversion. She was too busy reading a novel with half-naked (a pessimist would call them half-clothed) people on the cover striking suggestive poses, the suggestion being that the other half of the clothing would be removed by page three.

Tapping her on the shoulder, I said, “Hey, did you know that Massachusetts is bigger than New Jersey? I would’ve thought it was the other way around.”

“Really? That’s interesting,” she said, without looking up. A few minutes passed quietly.

I said, “The Skipper from Gilligan’s Island name on the show was Jonas Grumby. Did you know that? They only said his name in the first episode. I got that one wrong. Do you think the Professor had a real name too?”

“Uh huh,” she said. How could she not get excited to learn the Skipper’s real name? She has no appreciation for the fine arts. A couple of years ago, we saw Mark Linn-Baker, the guy who played Cousin Larry in the sitcom Perfect Strangers, at the grocery store, and she didn’t even care. I was like, “Cousin Larry’s over there by the bagel bins! Let’s go do the Dance of Joy!”

And all she could say was, “Who’s Cousin Larry?”

Who’s Cousin Larry, indeed. Don’t be ree-diculose.

A few moments later, I turned to Kara and said, “Did you know that the wingspan of a 747 is about one hundred feet longer than the Wright Brother’s first flight? That’s just crazy.”

“Baby, I’m in the middle of my book,” she replied.

“Sorry. Are people making out in it right now? I didn’t mean to interrupt them,” I said. I’m allowed to make fun of her trashy romance novels about once a month. After that, I’ve spent all my tokens, and any comments about barrel-chested men and almost-ready-to-love-again maidens must be kept to myself.

All of a sudden, Kara said, “Oh, the flight attendant’s coming with the trash bag. Quick, drink the rest of my cranberry juice or I’ll be stuck with the cup until we land. Chug it. Chug it!”
I downed the cranberry juice, and as I dropped the cup into the trash bag, I looked up and saw a question about Greek mythology pop onto the screen, a subject that Kara took a few classes on in college.

As I started to point up at the screen, she said, “It’s Bacchus,” while fiddling with her tray table. She had already seen the question, and she wasn’t even going to say that she knew the answer. What’s the point of knowing a trivia answer if you aren’t going to let everyone around you know that you know it? Modesty has no place in the trivial pursuits.

Did you know that the brown-throated three-toed sloth can reach Mike Todd online at


  1. I have to totally agree with you. If you don't shout out your answers, to prove to everyone within hearing distance that you are INFINITELY more intelligent than they, there's no use playing trivia.

    Your wife just doesn't get it. Well... 'cept for I love those trashy romance novels too...

  2. OoOo the trashier the better on the romance novels. LOL

    We go to the bar to play that video trivia, and drink cokes. We are such alchie holics. LOL

  3. We used to have an "unofficial" trivia tournament every Christmas and one of my buddies was, without a doubt, THAT GUY. The one who you just know sits on the toilet reading the cards in his spare time so he can prove that he knows more useless information than the rest of us imbeciles...

    How else could you explain knowing something so "trivial" (ha!) such as the fact that the oldest business in the U.S. is the cymbal company Zildjian?

    Yep, definitely osmosis by commode.

  4. melodyann -- You and Kara should have a book exchange. You can see her trashy romance novel collection from space.

    burfica -- That sounds like a good time. My buddy does that at Hooters every week. 'Cause he likes the trivia. *cough*

    queen -- Osmosis by commode! Excellent. Zildjian? I never would have guessed that ever freaking ever. I'd have gone with Yuengling. Or Ambrose's Pilgrim Hat Buckles.

  5. you're a read offline bookmark. it's too damn hot to read anything and enjoy it. i'll catch this next week. i don't even have the energy for caps.

    still can do a bold though; go sox

    mike, you're the writer, semi colon, colon, or comma?

  6. Alright, I’m succumbing to reciprocal blog messaging, but I gotta say, Mike, you put a lot of pressure on a girl. I mean, what’s my fodder, here? Cranium on an airplane? Trashy romance novels? What’s interesting and/or humourous about those things? Practically nothing.

    How about a tangent? The airline I usually fly puts out a cleverly bilingual magazine called “En Route” (apparently, the safest way to avoid the language Nazis here in the great white north is to give things French names, thus simultaneously appealing to erudite Anglophones whist pacifying rabid Frenchies). In the back of the magazine, there’s always a series of Trivial Pursuit questions intended to distract the average reader for approximately 8.4 seconds (or however long it takes to realize that Trivial Pursuit questions are, like, really hard.)

    Anyway. I was thinking how funny it would be if patrons of my bilingual airline started yelling out the answers to these questions mid-flight as if it WERE a giant game of Cranium. Except that instead of things like the Skipper’s actual name, the answers would be things like ‘merychippus’ to the question “What prehistoric animal is the modern day horse related to?”

    And because competition is good for us, maybe the flight attendants could keep score, you know? Grade people on a spectrum of idiot to genius, with bonus points for answering in both official languages. That way, instead of standing around demurely at the baggage claim, you and your reunited loved ones could whisper and point at the idiot in the suit who didn’t even know that Tupac Amaru was the last Inca to be raised by princesses in the 15th century. Probably a Frenchie, that one.

  7. LOL Well, it's the little things in life that make the difference sometimes, isn't it?

  8. buster -- I hope someone has scraped you off the floor and hooked you up to a Slurpee IV. I mean an intravenous Slurpee, not the fourth Roman Slurpee, in case that was unclear. And as far as the correct punctuation, I'm going to go with the pound sign. That's all the rage these days.

    Kimu -- Dang! There was more thought in that comment than I've had all year. Thanks for dropping off the kids in my pool.

    Rima -- Ha, you bet. Please don't ask Kara that question.