Friday, June 21, 2013


My parents and I have a tradition. Whenever we're in the same city - which between their travel and my travel only comes to about ten weeks a year - we go to pub trivia together on Wednesday nights.  Some weeks we decimate the competition with our unique cross-section of knowledge and other weeks we go home laughing at our own ignorance.  Either way, it's something I look forward to every Wednesday.

But this week our usual trivia night was cancelled as they are training a new host and we decided to take a chance on a new place.  The quiz was delayed due to the NBA Finals, but after the Heat won, trivia fired up, just as fun as ever.  We floundered a bit in the first round, but then found our stride and were cruising along...


On the next to the last round, I noticed something off.  Across the bar, in a corner booth where the trivia hostess couldn't see them, another team was using their cell phone underneath their table to cheat and look up answers.  We watched them do this for three consecutive questions, before I mentioned to the hostess that I thought another team might be using a cell phone.  She immediately took off to investigate - and caught them in the act. 

I have an intense stress reaction to cheaters - my heart pounds and adrenaline floods my system so much that I actually start to shake. I didn't like being the one to "rat them out" (WHY is that seen as a negative in our culture?  Why are we tacitly encouraged to keep silent when we see someone doing something wrong?), but if they had placed and won a gift card or the cash prize that should have gone to someone else, that would have been grossly unfair.

They knew it was our team who must have spotted them - we were the only ones in the bar in a position to see what they were doing.  So of course, they did the classy thing.  They accused us of cheating as well. 

We have never cheated.  We would never cheat.  The idea is repugnant to us.  When the hostess informed us of their accusation, we offered to let her check our cell phones, review our search histories, but she determined that wasn't necessary.  Frankly, we turn in our answers so quickly we wouldn't have had time to look up the answers online.

The disqualified team didn't leave.  They stayed through the end of the game, glaring and pointing at us.  We won - and they gave us a mocking round of applause.  It should have been a good moment for us.  The entire night should have been a good experience.  The hostess was great.  Our waitress was great.  The food was great - and it was free because of our winnings.  We were "on" - confident of every answer from June Cleaver to Bain Capital.  It should have been fantastic.

But as it stands, we aren't sure whether we'll go back again next week if our usual place is still out of commission.  Between the cheating and being taunted by the disqualified jerks afterwards, it cast a pall on the experience.

My father said something interesting as we were leaving.  "I bet lots of people would cheat for a million bucks, but what kind of person cheats for a hundred?"  To me it wasn't a question of scale, but it made me think about the show Survivor - lying, cheating, doing whatever necessary for a million bucks - but you're awarded that money by your peers, so there is a check-and-balance system in that.
Plagiarism in schools... piracy of books... cheating has many forms.  And they all feel wrong to me. 

What do you think?  Is cheating at trivia a trivial concern?  Or is honor honor regardless of the circumstance?


Kali Robaina said...

Honor. I don't care if there's not even money at honor and credibility are worth more than winning.

Vivi Andrews said...

Thank you. It's nice to know there are more of us honor-bound types out there. :)