On Tuesday nights, the tables in Anna Liffey’s, a subterranean Irish pub at 17 Whitney, fill up by 8:15 as regulars appear and gradually crystallize into teams of five. When nine o’clock rolls around, these teams engage in animated debates about the seemingly trivial—questions like “which popular board game was banned in Cuba and North Korea?” The participants defy generalization: Neuroscience graduate students compete against Book Trader baristas and a group of coworkers from a local high school. Some participants neither work nor reside in New Haven, but make the trip to Whitney Avenue just for Anna Liffey’s famed Trivia Night.
The Quizmaster, Jonathan, is bestowed with the responsibility of reading the trivia questions and occupies an appropriately righteous seat of authority on a raised platform. The adjacent table is occupied by Jessica, Michael, Derek, Scott, and Chris—who make up the unlikely veteran team: Rehab is for Quitters. How did they become Trivia Night regulars? “I kind of got sucked in,” one offers, and the others laugh in agreement. Each member initially joined as a substitute, then was gradually incorporated into the core over the past six years.
At nine o’clock, the chatter in Anna Liffey’s softens to a murmur and Trivia Night commences. The Quizmaster opens a package of questions and calls out the rules of the game:
1. Order some drinks.
This is, after all, an Irish pub. Old spritz bottles and lanterns are shelved against roughly stone walls, and each wrought iron table is fashioned to resemble those which once held classic Singer sewing machines. The nostalgic ambience is genuine— the original owners of Anna Liffey’s were Irish, as was the bartender who started the trivia tradition seven years ago. The nation’s flag marks the entrance and, weeks after St. Patrick’s Day, “Guinness” clovers still hang from the walls.
2. Come up with an imaginative team name and write it on each of your Play Cards.
For Quizmaster Jonathan, the highlight of Trivia Night occurs after round three, when he reads the colorful team monikers aloud during the first score update. Names range from the raunchy (Save a Train—Ride a Conductor), to the whimsically obscene (One Fuck Two Fuck Red Fuck Blue Fuck), to the simply absurd (Dingoes Ate My Baby). The members of Rehab is for Quitters can’t remember exactly how their team found its name— but they do recall how their original members were heavy drinkers and smokers. Ironically, Michael, who joined the team a few years ago, works at a New Haven rehab center.
3. When the contest begins, the Quizmaster will read out the questions. Come up with as many correct answers as possible and write them on the Play Cards provided.
Every week, Brainstormer Pub Quiz mails Anna Liffey’s a package which contains seven rounds of questions treating subjects from chemistry to pop culture. Jonathan always replaces one round with a music category, which asks teams to identify songs based on sound clips. The crowd at Anna Liffey’s often transforms into a musical troupe, as when most of the bar breaks into an enthusiastic rendition of “As Long as We Got Each Other” from Growing Pains.
4. NO CHEATING!
Because money is at stake, this rule is strictly enforced. For a play card and the promise of an enjoyable night, each team must contribute ten dollars. At the end of the night, the pot of gold is divided among the three highest-scoring teams. With twenty teams consistently playing, first place can expect to take home over one hundred dollars.
5. Do not yell out the answers!
When Jonathan bellows, “You lose on average fifty to one hundred of what each day,” some teams try to foil their competitors by shouting out facetious answers: “Fingers!” “Toenails!” At another table, with intensity appropriate to Yale students, a JE ’06 team leans in close to deliberate. They barely relax their poses long enough to sip their drinks, lest any discussion become privy to eavesdroppers. v 6. In the event of any disputes, the Quizmaster’s decision is final.
Be nice to your Quizmaster; and he will be nice to you. Jonathan and the waitresses who work Tuesday nights reward the loyalty of Rehab is for Quitters by reserving their treasured table. Such respect is rare—the Quizmaster ridicules stupid answers, singling out a team that avows a platypus, not a bat, is the only mammal that can fly.
7. Above all else, ENJOY YOURSELF!
That’s really what it’s all about. For the members of Rehab is for Quitters, the rewards of trivia night extend beyond Tuesdays. Jessica explains that, except for brothers-in-law Derek and Chris, none of the Rehab is for Quitters teammates had met before being “sucked in.” Now good friends, they convene on birthdays to play Trivial Pursuit. Though Rehab is for Quitters no longer consistently places at Trivia Night, the team has not forgotten its former glory days. With discernible regret, Jessica’s teammate Derek laments, “We used to be sodding number one!” To which their waitress responds, “You’re still number one to me.”
Megan McLaughlin is a Sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College.