A Trivial Matter

19 October 2021
By Julia Johnston, edited by Madeline Goldberg

Let me set the scene for you: it’s a cold, clear Friday night, and under the twinkling lights of a newly-erected tent we find gathered twenty-six teams, several scorers, three boxes of prizes, and one Arnab Chakladar – master of the quiz and of sarcasm alike. No, this isn’t weekly trivia at Imminent Brewing but rather a (somehow even more gripping?) trivia game on the Bald Spot in honor of Inauguration. Of these twenty-six teams, however, we are only concerned with two: Buy or Lease (read: Byerlys), a nefarious team of all professors, and our heroes, the Vinyl Imps. 

The Vinyl Imps (from left: Connie Walker, Madeline Goldberg, Julia Johnston, Nina Kaushikkar, Mike Kowalewski, and Peter Balaam) beam next to their winnings; for the contents of the box, read on.

A few days before the deadline to register a trivia team, Arnab reached out to a lucky few senior English majors, and your editors made his list (possibly we were the only ones he knew. Unclear). Madeline, Julia, and another senior named Nina Kaushikkar were the first three to hop on and accept his offer. They joined professors Mike Kowalewski, Connie Walker, and Peter Balaam, and thus the Vinyl Imps were born.

The morning of the trivia showdown we woke to an email from Peter Balaam, team captain and, apparently, rickshaw owner. He assured the Vinyl Imps that he would be cycling around the Bald Spot, offering rides to team members and bringing general cheer. 

But this happy promise of camaraderie was quickly shattered by Buy or Lease. At 5:54 AM Mike Kowalewski received an alarming email, which read: “oh, those dear, dear Viny Limps. I guess the Sorting Hat put them in House Better Luck Next Time. Don’t hurt your necks craning to see which teams are beating you!” (Pierre? Why were awake at 5:54 AM??)

It was then that Arnab, background-manipulator-of-trivia-games, warned us that “perfidious Pierre” and George Shuffleton had both defected from an all-English team to join an all-star team-up with professors from multiple departments. This team, named for our new President (an English professor!) Alison Byerly, was made up of David Liben-Nowell of Computer Science, Joshua Davis of Mathematics, Daniel Groll from Philosophy, and Emily Carroll, who represented the greater Northfield community. Arnab concluded, and we agree, that basically, Historical Era 1 is never again to be trusted.

Onto the game! It was thirty-nine degrees outside, but there was apple cider and hot chocolate provided, not to mention heart-warming displays of wit. All the twenty-six teams showed up to win, but only one could prevail. My favorite names included: Pink Freud, We Like Watching Birds (yeah, we’re confused too), and RRRRR (10/10 simply for the fact that Arnab rolled his rs every time). Arnab started the game off with a slight roast of Buy or Lease, pointing out that they had no students, but ultimately, he didn’t put them in the red (despite the best efforts of one Connie Walker, and the delicious cookies she offered as a bribe). 

He then moved onto the trivia itself: the theme was Carleton’s graduation requirements, so each round there were questions about science, arts, literature, sports, religion, history, politics, music, languages, etc. As Arnab announced with great joy, this meant that one question per round was a QRE (quantitative reasoning encounter), and he proceeded to make us do math. For three English majors and three English professors, the Vinyl Imps did pretty well with numbers, which is to say we got every math-related question right but somehow goofed a question about the Marx Brothers. 

Unfortunately, we soon discovered that Buy or Lease wasn’t trash-talking without cause. As the night proceeded, they cleaned out the rest of the teams, finishing with a score of thirty-two to second-place’s twenty-seven, and third-place’s (your very own Vinyl Imps!) twenty-three. We did our best to convince Arnab to knock off points for their horrifically professor-centric team, and at one point, we had the whole tent boo-ing, but to his credit, Arnab is a fair quiz master, if not a kind one, and Buy Or Lease walked away with their well-deserved win intact. Daniel Grolls’ parting question went some way to mollifying our bruised egos: “Doesn’t that make you feel better about who’s doing the educating?,” he asked. 

The prizes for this trivia night, hosted by Carleton, in the center of our campus; on the bald spot, the metaphorical beating heart of this college, if you will, in honor of our new president? St. Olaf merch. An Ole night-light, some fun plastic cups, and mugs. The three triumphant trivia teams get to rep our rival school, so catch us strutting around campus this week with our (treacherous?) winnings on full display.

We’re ending this article with a plea: send in your best trivia questions on our Instagram or on the Facebook page. We might feature you in our next article! It’s our hope to bring back the age-old tradition of Second Laird Miscellany trivia each week, and we’d love your help to do so.

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