Mostly Overland

in search of Kinder eggs

Tales From Pub Quiz

In the first three weeks of the trip, I attended five pub quizzes, all in Guatemala. I finished in the money each night and at the time I thought this sort of thing would largely subsidize my entire trip. As it turns out I wouldn’t find another pub quiz for the duration of my travels. (Not that they didn’t exist, I just wasn’t in the right place at the right time, usually).  Here’s a few highlights from trivia nights:

PUB QUIZ I: REILLYS in Antigua

My first night in Antigua I had a drink at Reilly’s Irish Pub in Antigua on the theory that after I started my Spanish classes the next morning, I wouldn’t be going to any more gringo-type establishments for weeks, you know, in the interest of immersion and all that.

The next night I was back for pub quiz.

The first pub quiz at Reilly’s was well run, if a little heavy on music (three rounds out of five were music related: name the song/artist, name the stage name of musician given real name, and first line). My team was my housemate Adam and I, along with a girl that Adam would spend most of the rest of the week shacking up with. First decision is picking a team name; I rack my brain for a topical pun on current events, per my custom. Taking a different approach, Adam proposes “My Couch Pulls Out But I Don’t,” which I’d heard before and which I sort of hate, but I decide I’d rather save my political capital for arguing over correct answers later, so I grudgingly allow it. Of course we win best team name and a round of shots.

There were two other best team name competitions over the next couple weeks: I used “My Couch Pulls Out But I Don’t” at each; it won every time. God damn it.

We also won the actual trivia round, and 200 Quetzals for our trouble. Off to a good start.

PUB QUIZ II: REILLYS again

Went back to Reilly’s alone, as everybody else I was planning on going with bailed, although I found out why, later. The original host was not going to be there that night, and instead the female substitute’s final round question was basically “name these random songs and artists I’m currently really into from my iTunes playlist” and amazingly her roommate’s team was able to come from way behind to win. At least I got a round for recycling the team name I had hated the prior week.

PUB QUIZ III: EL BARRIO in San Pedro

San Pedro is, for some reason, the pub quiz capital of Central America. Maybe all of the Americas. Despite having a population of 9,000, there are at least three pub quizzes every week.

I show up by myself and don’t have a team but am recognized by a guy named Adam who I had met a few nights prior at another bar, and who had told a hilarious anecdote about the showers of Guatemala, which I will try to quickly recapture here. First, you have to understand that almost all showers in non-upscale parts of Central America operate pretty much the same way: there is no “hot water” line, there is just an electric heater in the shower head, with some unhelpful cryptic circles and a switch, and most notably, plenty of exposed wires. This contraption may or may not succeed in heating your water. It also may or may not zap you a little bit. Where Adam’s little anecdote comes in was that, as travelers, we were commiserating over this sort of showering situation and Adam starts pantomining the way you might stick your hand into the shower quickly to see if it shocks you, first lower in the shower’s flow where the drops are separated, and then further up, where they make a continuous stream, and thus make for a better electrical conductor. As he wobbles to and fro demonstrating this, he suddenly realizes “this is probably why there aren’t any tall Guatemalans — if they get too tall, they get electrocuted in the shower.” We all thought this was pretty much the funniest thing we’d heard all night.  You may not think that story is particularly funny but then you haven’t been drinking liter bottles of Gallo for a couple of hours, either.

So anyway, Adam recognizes me, and his team of four is sort of set, but the fourth guy isn’t there yet, and they’re not sure about him, and once I offer a couple of correct answers in my interim capacity, they seize the opportunity and call me up for the majors. We end up in second place largely because I forgot that the Volga is longer than the Danube. First place surprises us by taking a gift certificate to the cafe next door, leaving us the chance to get cash — initally, less than the certificate is worth, but we can do a series of high/low card bets to double or money. We double it once, which leaves us with as much as the certificate was worth, but in cash.

Some of this is spent on San Pedro’s most hardworking businessman, a child of about 8 who comes in to sell popcorn, and who has a spiel he reads out not only in Spanish and English, but also Hebrew, learned courtesy of the significant amount of Israeli backpackers who come through town. It’s something like 3Q for a small bag or 5Q for two. He sells all of it.

PUB QUIZ IV: FE RESTAURANT
There are two kinds of pub quizzes. The serious kind that nerds like me prefer, where the questions are challenging and the prize is straight cash. The other kind is the frivolous pub quiz where entire categories are devoted to things like the Real Housewives or Jason Derulo hits, with plenty of extra prizes (i.e. free drinks) for non-trivia related buffoonery such as dance-offs, funniest team names, or chugging contests. I generally have no patience for the second kind of trivia night. All this garbage I have in my head is my advantage, usually.

Somehow the pub quiz on Friday nights at Restaurant Fe in San Pedro combines the best of both worlds. The quiz was a tough one, and I was very proud of myself for figuring out which make of car was named for its intended market (answer below). My team was one of two made up of classmates from my school; my team was definitely the old people team. The difficult thing whenever you’re playing with new people is divining who knows what they’re talking about and who is spouting utter nonsense, and it took a few bad moves in the first round to find out that the 40-something chick from Brooklyn who is really into yoga was the nonsense person, and a 50-something guy named Ian who was politely suggesting things I’d never even heard of was the guy who knew what he was talking about.

Ian, the old guy who made me realize I was one of the old guys and should embrace it, and Tariq, definitely a young guy and unofficial social kingpin of San Pedro.

Ian, the old guy who made me realize I was one of the old guys and should embrace it, and Tariq, definitely a young guy and unofficial social kingpin of San Pedro.

There is a best team name competition, and My couch pulls out but I don’t wins yet again, this time earning us a bottle of champagne. A bottle of tequila is passed around through all the teams for no particular reason by the quizmaster at one point, and the crowd is getting fairly well lubricated. But this pub quiz’s most notable feature derives from the fact that Fe is located directly on the shore of Lake Atitlan, and it’s porch has a dock, or more accurately a plank, whence you can jump straight into the lake. On Friday nights, when the quizmaster calls out lake jump at some arbitrary time, the first person to race to the plank and jump into the lake wins something like $5. And the prize money doubles in the event that the quizmaster calls out a naked lake jump, which is exactly what it sounds like. One girl came ready to win that competition at least; when the naked lake jump was called, Tariq was next to the ramp but had only managed to pull off his shirt before this girl had ripped off her shirt and sweatpants and went literally streaking past him. (Somebody from the bar greets you shoreside with a towel, if you’re wondering what happens next to these people).

Somehow we only come in third, but this is good enough for a couple of liters of beer, which Ian and I happily split.

The popcorn kid is back again but because it’s Friday night and everybody is way drunker he has savvily jacked his prices almost twice as high. I told him I remember the prices from Barrio and he just shrugs, but eventually I am able to negotiate a bulk deal for the table. That kid is going to be Guatemala’s first billionaire.

PUB QUIZ V: ALEGRE
The one at Alegre Pub on Sunday nights is the calmest of the pub quizzes, with probably only 25 people in attendance. I’m rolling more or less solo, although I sort of de facto adopted a new team member in the form of a middle-aged Belgian woman who was apparently bicycling through Central America. She has been “robbed” three times on her journey, by which she means she has absentmindedly left her belongings lying around various parts of Central America and is shocked when they are not there upon her return. She only contributed one suggested answer which I immediately disregarded, but since whatever prize I won, second or third, was a round of shots for my team, she got to try her first tequila shot at my invitation. Talking to the host during a break was when I learned that the three old guys I’d noticed playing on various teams in the first two trivia nights, but who were all playing together at Alegre, were all ringers, and the guy who looked like Willie Nelson was actually “the best quizzer in San Pedro.” I am not kidding about that.

On the right, "the best quizzer in San Pedro."

On the right, “the best quizzer in San Pedro.”

But the quiz night was really mostly memorable due to me mouthing off a little.

There’s a booth near the bar occupied by two couples in their 50s. They are Canadian, and they are not a big fan of the questions. “Why can’t they ask any questions aboot the Grey Cup,” says one wife, and I am not making that up. I can’t really help myself and volunteer “because nobody cares about Canadian football” or possibly “nobody cares about Canada,” who can remember. The husband stands up, and mustache bristling, looks me square in the eye and says “You know, I could hit you right now for that.” He looks so serious but I can’t help it and burst out laughing, then reply “but you’re Canadian, so you won’t.” He looks at me for a second, his mustache sort of twitches one more time, and then he exhaled and said “you’re right” and sat down. And I went back to my beer.

Answer to the car question: Lexus – Luxury EXport United States. I think i wrote down about 40 car brands on a napkin before I hit on that, which I knew was a Toyota-owned thing, and made sense.

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