We’ve all been there. You’ve arranged to meet some mates for a pint and a catch-up about how brilliant everything is, you push open the door to the pub and immediately a sixth sense – some vestige of animal instinct, perhaps, still intact despite years of neglect – tries to tell you something. As usual, you ignore it.
You stride purposefully over to the bar, eyeing the punters hunched over their tables and wondering what it is that the atmosphere reminds you of… That’s it, it feels a bit like work. Weird.
‘What’s going on?’ you enquire of the barman as he pours you a pint.
‘Quiz night,’ he says.
‘Oh, for fuck’s sake,’ you say.
‘Shhh!’ says someone next to you wielding a tiny pencil.
Quiz Night? If I’d wanted to have people shout questions at me from another room I’d have stayed at home with the family. Pubs are for chatting, for meeting strangers. Pubs are for jokes, for taking the mick, for discovering stuff, for forgetting other stuff, to recover from work, to put your life in order, to share problems and ideas. They are to set yourself adrift on the ebb and flow of topics, for the concatenation of dreams.
But no, you’re stuck in a room with 40 know-it-alls who need an excuse to go to a pub and then, when they do get in one, sit there in silence trying to remember shit. ‘Don’t talk to Seb, he’s trying to remember all the host cities of the Winter Olympics since 1924.’
You mustn’t break the vow of silence to call your mates to warn them, oh no, and so you text them instead.
‘Er… excuse me? No phones allowed,’ hisses an earnest geek in a roll-neck jumper, emboldened by being with his people.
‘It’s alright, I’m not doing the quiz,’ you smile back, politely, and he gives you a look.
‘Oh, really?’ he persists. ‘What are you doing on your phone, then?’
‘I’m texting your mother to tell her you’re a cunt,’ you say, and he looks a little hurt.
Yes, you’re trapped. You’ve a pint now and, worse, you deliberately arrived early so you could spend 20 minutes alone, with someone you love. At least in summer you could have gone and stood by the road, or possibly in it. And so you’re forced to stay and listen to the next round and then endure the torture of the quizmaster reading out the hilarious team names.
As a distraction you devise a system for telling you the likely make-up of each group by their chosen name.
- ConQUIZtador, Quizlamic State, Quiz Quiztopherson or anything with ‘quiz’ in the name: First-timers, dullards or care in the community.
- Universally Challenged, Arsetermind or Scrambled Eggheads: Quiz enthusiasts that have evolved sufficiently to watch TV.
- Know-it-ales, Bar Stewards, Tequila Mockingbird or anything that references booze: Students
- Fire! This is not a Drill or I Wear Ladies’ Underwear or I Haven’t Had Sex for Five Years or anything that is mildly embarrassing for the quizmaster to read out: Sociopathic flat-track bullies.
- Hitler’s Other Ball, No Surrender, Anne Frank’s Hide and Seek Club: UKIP, red-trousered rugger buggers or both.
- Anne Widdecombe’s Vajazzle, Clitoris Allsorts, or I’m Not a Gynaecologist But I’ll Take a Look: Confused misogynist geezers hoping to impress girls so they can get a handjob by the bins. They won’t. Not tonight, nor any other night.
By now you’re on your second pint and you find yourself randomly shouting out ‘Djibouti!’ and ‘Mark E. Smith!’ to amuse yourself. Why do people put themselves through it, you wonder to yourself.
‘You can win two gallons of beer,’ you remember someone telling you.
‘But you don’t drink beer,’ you said.
‘I know, but two gallons!’ they gurned.
Even on the breaks the smoking area is full of people mystified that Morag didn’t know who couldn’t be arsed to finish Sanditon or aghast that Steve didn’t know what UEFA stands for.
At length your mates pitch up, and on the way to the next boozer – any boozer – you remember why they’re your mates.
‘Thing I can’t stand about quizzes is that they either involve showing off, which I don’t like, or watching other people showing off, which I detest,’ says Dirty South.
‘While either being laughed at for being thick or laughing at someone else for being thick,’ says Roxy.
‘And if I was going to do one, I certainly wouldn’t do it with you fucktards,’ says Half-life, proving my maxim that given the choice between a quiz night and conversation, one should always choose conversation: They’re so much easier to win.
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