Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Trivia on Vernon: An alternative and fun Thursday night option



Thursdays are special days on college campuses and Trinity is no different. For some students, they signal that the weekend is almost in full swing again. After four days spent in the depths of the Raether Library, this can be quite uplifting. Thursdays to most college kids are, in actuality, Thurs-nights: a time when many hard working students seek to take a break from their studies and unwind with their peers, many of whom are sailing in the same work-ridden boat.

Groups of eight filled the tables and chairs of Vernon Social Center as WhatTrivia host, Mark Bernacki, informed an eager crowd of students about the special occasion of the evening: two students would be randomly selected to win $25 gift certificates to Goldberg’s, in addition to the $50 set aside for the champions. The room was bright and welcoming.

“The rules are simple. Choose a team name. Don’t forget a rules sheet or answer pad. Put your team name, along with your answer and a wager. Don’t forget to wager and don’t repeat a wager. Oh, and NO CELL PHONES.” To get the most out of my experience, I felt it best to throw myself right in the thick of things, and join up with a group of contestants. Already it was unlike anything else I knew of that happened on Thursday nights.

The game, organized in a rather simplistic manner, is split into halves, with a final question to cap things off (worth up to as many points as a team is willing to wager). Throughout the first round, contestants were continuously asked other thought provoking questions, such as: “Which of the following words—bootylicious, bromance, selfie, jeggings, or yolo—was not in the Oxford Dictionary?,” “What does the modern technological term ‘wi-fi’ stand for?,” or “In the anatomy category, where are beauty features that are regarded in science as one’s ‘zygomatic arches’ located on the human figure?”

The answering process was an event to watch in itself. Some were just a matter of common knowledge and other questions left the door open for some creative persuasion. Equally as entertaining was the wordy debate between two slightly tipsy biology majors, about whether the zygoma was related to the bones beneath the lower eye or those in the cheeks. Their reactions were priceless when another teammate intervened only to say that they were both right, as Mark announced that all he was looking for was anything referencing ‘the face’.

At this point, the host took a quick pause to announce the first recipient of the two Goldberg gift cards. I took a pause myself, as I began to try to imagine a fraternity putting the party on hold to give away raffle prizes. It wasn’t long before I realized that there wasn’t much substance to the thought at all: a similar giveaway would be hard to do in an environment where names are not exactly a focal point. And, for those not immersed in friend circles including fraternity members, the initial act of getting into the frat is often an instance of randomly generated luck in itself, never mind getting a drink. I chuckled a bit on the inside as the thought of fraternities taking timeouts faded away and I refocused on the game at hand.

Once again, I was genuinely fascinated as people confidently scribbled down answers just as quickly as the questions themselves were asked. The second round came to a close as Mark revealed that Oprah Winfrey was the only African American billionaire according to Forbes.

As promised, a tally was taken at halftime to see if the previous week’s attendance record had been broken. With 13 teams and 60 players, it shattered the old one and set a new record. What was once only a handful of students answering a list of questions in an empty room had transformed into a competitive and engaging weekly test of knowledge that was well attended.

The second half started and it wasn’t long before the audience was tested again, this time in the form of numerical reasoning. Mark paused to give out the second Goldberg’s gift card then moved forth with the final round categories, a few of which he had to repeat. It seemed that the alcohol was beginning to become more of a factor. Each repetition appeared more tedious than the last, and I began to feel a sense of frustration, the same feeling that the host was doing a commendable job of holding back.

The final task was to name 9 of the 10 largest countries by total land area (including inland bodies of water). Designated messengers for each team scribbled their answers and ran up to turn them in, as they did time and time before. I grew curious to the point of asking if bonus points were awarded for quickness. I learned that they weren’t; people were just eager to share knowledge they proudly possessed. This was also interesting, as I began to notice another parallel between trivia and your typical night in parts elsewhere on Vernon; this was focused more around what you knew and less around whom you knew.

I am not implying that a sense of community cannot be derived from places like fraternity basements. Their ability to remain in existence through recent scrutiny is proof that a community is being active about their own presence. The feeling I get on campus is that fraternities have not easily surrendered to the new mandates being imposed, nor do I feel they should, as a formidable following has grown accustomed to the lifestyle revolving around Hartford’s best attempt to emulate the “frat rows” that can be found in larger scales at southern schools that enroll thousands more than Trinity does. I simply am trying to paint a picture of what the student body has continuously been promised. That is, not an entire abolishment of Greek Letter Organizations at Trinity, but rather activities that provide an alternative environment in which all cultures present at the college could be fostered without limitations, and for the first time I felt it had delivered.

Thursdays on Vernon Street may be notorious for their late night antics in which groups of kids run around campus drinking up until the buffer zone between thoughts and actions gets burned paper-thin by the alcohol, and rampant anarchy seems to be the byproduct. Although technically in the aforementioned circus of a place, WhatTrivia at Vernon Social Center was more much more civilized than any Thursday night on Vernon Street that I could remember, and invoked tests of intelligence and teamwork that aren’t quite able to shine through the darkness that often encapsulates the basements of Vernon Street.

WhatTrivia on Thursday nights are changing what was once the Vernon Street norm of keeping people out, to promoting a more inclusive and engaging environment and breaking attendance records by letting more and more people in. As the event came to a close, I immediately thought to myself, “What could be going on at this hour everywhere else on Vernon?” Being a student here long enough to know where that question could lead, I decided against entertaining the thought and instead relished the moment I had just been part of. Perhaps it was the true intention of a building with the term “social center” included in its name.

With all of the recent buzz surrounding the growing nature of weekly crowds, a third segment of WhatTrivia was proposed. his own. Mark clearly appreciates the turnouts, evident in the extra prizes that I later discovered were donated by the host himself.

WhatTrivia at Trinity College is held on Thursday nights at 7 p.m., and all are certainly welcome. I’ll see you there.


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