Trivial Pursuits {?} - Chapter 8, Part 2

The morning following the night in the Jacuzzi where Eos was asking me all the questions about being Druze, we went with the microphone and the video camera to a small park called Pan Pacific Park, which is very near to the Park La Brea apartments. Here they have sports fields, a running loop, and all kind of nice spots to picnic or fly a kite, as some few children were doing that day. Eos had the idea to ask many questions to each person we found agreeable to be on camera. This way, she said she’d be able to use different answers in all the future episodes and we wouldn’t have to film as many people. The main list of questions we’d come up with was the following:

1) What is the best-selling record album of all-time?

2) What percentage of the average human’s weight is blood?

3) How many miles is the moon from Earth?

4) Who invented the computer mouse?

5) Who was the first Emperor of China, ruling between 221 BCE and 210 BCE?

6) What is the main difference between an opera and a musical?

7) How many countries are on the continent of Europe?

8) How many US Presidents have been assassinated?

9) Who was Michael Faraday?

10) The original Latin word sinister means what?

So with these questions, Eos said she thought she’d get a good mix of answers that were funny because they were so far from being correct and answers that sounded like they might be right, but were actually wrong. I’d actually helped her coming up with a list of almost 100 questions, but we narrowed it into these 10 to start and kept the others on a notebook in case people wanted to answer even more.

At Pan Pacific Park, we walked up to a nice, friendly looking lady who was reading a book and watching her son play on the basketball field. Eos said people with books were probably more likely to accept the invitation to be on films, and I agreed with her.

As it turned out, at least with the first person we were approaching, we were right and the lady seemed even excited to know she was going to be on mentalfloss, which she said she looked at every week. But what we did not yet know was how lucky we got with the first lady and how many people would refuse to be filmed when they understood the questions they had to answer. This was taking me by surprise, and Eos too. Not because we thought the questions would be easy for the average person who was not obsessed with trivia—because we knew they’d be difficult—but because we were expecting that everyone likes to be part of a funny video on the Internet, even if they don’t know the correct answers. The first day we were filming in the park, I calculated that for every 10 people we asked, only 1.5 was agreeable. This meant a lot of asking and picking up the camera and walking here there and all over the place. And it was hot that day and I guess I’d forgotten to apply my armpits with the Right Guard Xtreme Anti-Perspirant Invisible Solid Cool Peak that my father had purchased at Target, because they were extremely moist and making my shirt have not a very nice smell by the afternoon. You know that when your own body smells are making you uncomfortable, so it must be making everyone else around you even more so. And I was embarrassed about it and eventually asked Eos if we could take a break and walk home so I could change my shirt and apply the Cool Peak under there.

But she said no. She said the smell didn’t bother her and we couldn’t afford to waste any more time because clearly it was going to take a lot longer to put people on films than she was anticipating. So she went back to approaching people and I went back to putting the people who were agreeable on the side of the frame and keeping the camera more or less from jerking too much. Some jerking she said was good because it was part of the look people were accustomed to on YouTube, but too much moving this way and that wasn’t not good.

“It should look natural,” she kept reminding me when we looked at some of the films I shot when we took the break for lunch. “See this part here,” she said, “this is good. It looks like you’re just an observer. The viewers will feel like they there with us.”

And when she saw something she didn’t like, so she made sure to explain how come. “See now here you’re moving too much, Fareed. I feel like I’m on a boat going up and down in the ocean and it makes me feel a little queasy, you know? We don’t want people getting seasick while they’re watching this, you know what I’m saying?”

She was being funny, and we laughed at that one, but also she was making some good points and I began to understand more how to tuck my elbows into the side of my body to keep steady the camera. But basically she seemed happy with the way I was putting people at the side like Stravinsky in the Arnold Newman picture Eos had sticking on her refrigerator under the red letter E magnet back at Park La Brea. And it made me happy that she was mostly happy. And even though my underarm smell was really scaring me by this point, I felt good to be part of the Ask Otis team.

One thing that was strange, that I noticed near the end of the first day with the camera in Pan Pacific Park, was that Eos was starting to ask people questions that were never on any of the lists we’d written. Strange questions that weren’t even trivia related. Like I remember her asking to this one guy, with a lot of whisky facial hair, a question from our notebook list: What was Apostle Paul’s original name? It was question #27, if I can remember myself right.

The guy said, “Oh, he was the one who had the epiphany on the road to Damascus, right? Jesus spoke to him and he became a Christian, right? And I think his name used to be Saul, right?”

And Eos said, “Bingo! Saul was his name-o.”

And the guy said, “Wow, I finally got one right.”

And Eos said, “Right on.” And then asked the strange question, “So do you know anyone named Saul?”

And the whisky facial hair guy said, “Yeah. This dude who went to Madison with me. Saul Epstein. Why?”

And Eos said, “Just curious. It’s a cool name, that’s all.”

“Okay,” the guy said.

And Eos said, “So you don’t have an uncle named Saul then?”

The guy said he didn’t and Eos moved on to the next question from our list. And I really didn’t think twice about this incident until at the end of the day when she asked another guy some few questions about some baseball player from the Detroit Tigers—questions that weren’t on our list ever and then also asked this same person the Apostle Paul question. When this guy didn’t know the answer, so she basically told him it was Saul, which was fine because she was always telling the answers after they didn’t get them correct. But then she asks this guy too if he had an uncle with the name Saul. And that’s when I understood that it was strange because she’d done it not once at random, but twice.

I didn’t say anything to her on it because, well, it wasn’t until the third day that it began to really seem strange and I really began to want to know what she was doing it for.

Check out previous chapters of Trivial Pursuits {?} right here.

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