I went to a charity quiz last night. Which is a euphemism for drinking too much on an empty stomach. For charity, though. It was hosted by Barry Simmons of TV quiz show Eggheads, who happens to me my friend’s dad.
My team came second, which was pretty cool, although I can’t claim much of the responsibility for that. I did answer one or two things correctly though, including a question in the geography round, of which I was particularly proud, knowing, as I do, bugger all about geography. Except for one obscure fact that happened to come up. Which is that Halfiax, Nova Scotia shares its name with a town in Yorkshire. I’ve waited years for that knowledge to be useful, so it was a glorious moment.
We were a good team and I enjoyed it very much, but I noticed a curious phenomenon which I believe prevented us from taking the top spot. Quite often we would have the correct answer at first, and then choose something else. What held us back was simply lack of confidence.
A typical situation would go something like this. “What’s the largest cell in the animal kingdom?” And someone would say “Ostrich Egg.” We would then spend the next few minutes deliberating the relative merits of this answer, and invariably put down something else. The person who said it didn’t know why they had, and therefore didn’t feel justified in defending it.
The same thing happened with the dumbledore bee, the olympic rings, the number of London Underground lines, and so it went on. Someone would say “I have a feeling it’s this, but I don’t know why.” And then our collective intelligence would undermine the instinct that came before thought, and construct something cleverer, and wrong.
So it led me to thinking about this idea that we already have all the answers. People say that don’t they, when you have big decisions to make. It’s sort of simultaneously reassuring and infuriating.
All this time I spend dramatising and agitating myself over what I believe is a vital quandary, and deep down I already know what’s going on and what I have to do about it. The performance is a distraction because I don’t what to see what’s there and/or I have a feeling that some kind of effort is required. The intelligence that knows the answers is also very good at constructing elaborate ways to ignore them.
I am not going to end on a Doogie Howser moment though, because coming back to the quiz, I wanted to share my favourite question of the night which was: “Only two tube stations contain all five vowels; which are they?” They should put that on wall of the train for people to ponder over while they’re stuck in a tunnel.