Trivia Answer of the Day: $2.50 for an Hour

This weekend, I will once again participate in the annual staging of The World’s Largest Trivia ContestTM, the main fundraiser every year for the college radio station in central Wisconsin that is my most prized alma mater. At this time last year, I shared some personally memorable answers from the madness of the contest, noting that every one of my teammates has similar stories. It is those stories from my teammates that I’ll share this time around.

The Cakers used to designate everyone on the roster in accordance with baseball terminology, with rookies, veterans and non-roster invitees. Without getting too deep into the arcana of our ever-shifting process, I can say with certainty that Jenny Lau was our first free agent. And like many of the first notable signings at the dawn of the free agency period in baseball, Jenny was (and is) a superstar. For one thing, she sometimes doesn’t sleep during Trivia weekend. This is a 54-hour contest, and she plainly doesn’t sleep. I’ve known here for a long time, and one credo has always served me well: Jenny is always right. Except for that one time about the Doobie Brothers appearing on What’s Happening!! And this one other time about Bob Mould. Other than that, though, spotless record .

stewart

The year was 1996. The Cakers were still trying to find their balance between hard drinkin’ and hard playin’. Partially due to our sketchy headquarters (two hotel rooms: the first–and last–year that the Cakers played solely from hotel rooms) and partially due to a misguided keg purchase, the hard drinkin’ kind of won that year (as evidenced by the new record set that year: Longest Horizontal Shower. Ahem). In Caker lore, it was a time before the internet, cell phones or a Chef (oh Hot ‘N‘ Now, how we do miss your sacks full of grease!).

Although it was probably one of my least favorite contests (we finished very low in the standings), it does hold a few very great memories for me: driving in, late-to-the-contest, and hearing Aason Johnsongoes on the air; the start (I think) of the music question; a big box of goodies from Guido; surprise visits from faraway Cakers; and, of course, winning MVP that year (I still contend that I won the honor only because I was alert enough to actually catch the trophy–a coconut head–when it was thrown at me).

But what I remember most is the overnights…when many Cakers gave into the siren song of passing out, PK and I were usually awake. Punch-drunk, perhaps…and maybe even actually drunk ourselves, but awake. In the wee hours, the questions got more difficult…the kind of questions where we couldn’t even figure out what was being asked, much less where we might find the answer in our horribly unorganized pile of reference materials. In those times, between singing along to oldies and vacuuming, PK and I often came up with our own silly trivia questions. I don’t know whether it was actually being played during the contest or whether we just started singing old songs to one another, but one of us said, “You know what would be a great trivia question? ‘How much does Jim Bass make?’” And the other one smiled in recognition, and then replied, “No, actually, that’d be a horrible question…because is it $2.50 or $2.54?” And we both giggled.

You have to understand that this is before the internet, Google or lyric databases were in popular use. Back when, if an artist didn’t print the lyrics on the sleeve to his record (yes, record album), you were perpetually doomed to sing lyrics incorrectly. Which is sometimes funny. But not during Trivia.

So, back then, you had to know that Jim Bass was a character in a song, specifically “Gold” by John Stewart, released in 1979 on the album Bombs Away Dream Babies. And that the line in the song is either “Well, my buddy Jim Bass, he’s a working pumping gas and makes $2.50 for an hour” or “…and he makes $2.54 an hour” depending on how you heard it. Trivia phones are staffed by volunteers, so teams are truly at the mercy of those that pick up their phones. Some can be particularly picky, so you had to make sure you said it correctly. So you’d hope the lyrics were printed on the sleeve of the record, and, on that particular album, they weren’t.

We got really caught up in this–especially considering it wasn’t a “real” question during the Contest–it was just our own “keep us awake” conversational question. I believe we giggled a lot and determined that we’d sing it, and mumble it, so we’d be sure to get credit for it should it ever be a question. And if Oz said we were wrong, PK would call the complaint line (he was still pretty bitter about the Jumbo Jr/Dumbo thing at that point, but that’s a story for another day).

And, then…it was a real question. No, not that year. Not for years after that, actually. And when I heard it, I was INSTANTLY transported back to the Roadstar Inn. It wasn’t a big pointer, of course, because by now everyone was online (including the Cakers) and could find it in milliseconds (for those too lazy to Google it, the correct lyric is “$2.50 for an hour.” And, incidentally, in looking that up just now I realized that I had always sung the character’s name wrong: it’s reportedly Jim BASH, not Bass. Huh).

But it wasn’t the points that mattered. It was knowing how something that we’d discussed, so long ago, in such a fleeting fashion, came back up, at just the right moment, in just the right way. If it were in a movie, it would have been a very poignant flashback scene, but as it is, it’s just life, illustrated by Trivia.

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More information can be found at the official Trivia site or try to get your hands (and eyes) on a certain documentary. You can also listen in to the radio station that hosts the contest. In order to see how things are going with the team I play on, Twitter is your best bet.

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