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Mocha Musings: Of trivia, tiaras and trying again — and again

Trivia is defined in my Merriam-Webster dictionary as “trifles, unimportant matters.” I beg to differ. Because “trivia,” when applied to the exercise of recalling random details or scraps of information, can not only be useful, but vitally important. Not only does the recollection of such seemingly insignificant data stimulate our brain, but it’s fun to have those “aha” moments.

Take last night, for example. I was watching the film "L.A. Confidential" with a friend, and we were both trying to remember the name of the actual police TV show from the 1950s on which the fictitious "Badge of Honor" in the film was based. “Nothing but the facts, ma’am.” Remember? Of course you do, and probably much quicker than we did. It finally popped into my head, as such things often do. "Dragnet," of course. Jack Webb as Joe Friday. But … can you remember his partner’s name?

That could be the type of question one might encounter at the Tuesday Night Trivia contest I participated in last week at a popular eatery downtown. There were four of us, all over the age of 50. I’d tried to convince my 19-year-old son to come along in case there were any hip-hop or rap questions, but (no surprise) he had other plans. Our assembled team was impressive as we sat down and readied ourselves for the start of the game. Among us, we sported degrees and professional awards: an affordable housing specialist, an attorney, a financial advisor, a writer. We were ready to smoke the competition.

And our team name said it all: Partial Recall.

Just one problem. We’d shown up for Tuesday trivia before. Well, more than before — several times, in fact. And although we always laughed ourselves silly while playing, we had never gotten any further than very close to last place. What is politely referred to at county fairs as the Participation Ribbon. So, though we knew we’d have lots of fun, we weren’t too hopeful about the outcome.

What was different that night? Could it be that our collective minds were a bit sharper due to the increased sunshine and advent of summer? Did the laughter of being with good friends in a convivial environment generate more endorphins than usual, relaxing us and allowing more spontaneous access to our “memory files”? Or did we just happen to select a better vintage of wine?

Who’s to say? The simple fact is that time and again, we came up with correct answers and agreed as a team, strategizing on double points. We trusted our gut instincts on first answers (for us, usually the right one), and Partial Recall triumphed. Yes, in the din of a full house of revelers — and some very smart brainiacs, too — we jostled and guessed our way to First Place. Tuesday Night Trivia Champs. There was a large gold trophy set down on our table by Tom, the host, and even a rhinestone tiara for the ladies. Our glory is forever to be seen on Louie’s Facebook page for posterity.

Research informs that “trivial” comes from Latin (trivialis), or crossroads, where there was always small talk and gossip from those meeting while travelling to and from market. If we want to get lofty, we can refer to Shakespeare’s “trifles light as air,” but since we all know that the devil can be in the details, I contend that it is in the quest and thirst for knowledge, and of how things hang together, that keeps our synapses synapsing. And, really, who can say when the mere fact of knowing not only which Presidents’ heads are carved on Mt. Rushmore, but in which order they are placed, left to right, will come in handy?

Do you know what the singular of “trivia” is? Well, I’m not going to tell you, but if you can answer it, then maybe you, too, can earn the thrill of being photographed wearing a tiara.

Award-winning author, TV presenter and world traveler Susanne Severeid is an Ashland resident who enjoys making time for the important things in life — including mocha. Read more of her columns at bit.ly/adtssmm. For more, go to www.susannesevereid.com. Email her at susannewebsite@olypen.com.