I just found out that next month Jeopardy! will be airing episodes with a contestant named Watson. Watson is an IBM supercomputer. As if I didn’t have it hard enough already.
Jeopardy! is one of my last remaining outlets to prove to the world that I’m smart. A way to separate myself from those pathetic souls on Leno’s “Jaywalking” segment who religiously watch every episode of Wife Swap, yet cannot name one state capital. Though as much as I hate to admit it, I have a lot more in common with those folks than merely wishing Jay Leno had never entered our lives.
It’s embarrassing how much I don’t know nowadays. This wasn’t always the case. For instance, I used to know what a polynomial was. I used to know who Andrew Carnegie was. We all knew who Andrew Carnegie was. Sure, sometimes school sucked. Waiting for the bus in subzero wind chill wasn’t so much fun. My uninspired lunches were a bummer as well. (FYI, Dad. No child ever needs or wants two apples in her lunch bag.) Those minor irritations aside, at least I knew how to properly diagram a sentence.
However, everything fades with time, including intelligence. I was confronted with this sad truth some years back upon applying to grad school. Aside from having my transcripts and recommendations in order, I decided to sign up for the GRE. Though not required for every program, I wanted to cover my bases just in case. Besides, how bad could it be? Specifically, I figured the quantitative, or math, section would be a breeze. Believe it or not, math was my strong suit in school. However, I hadn’t taken a class in quite a while, so I snagged one of those GRE prep books and cracked it open to the quantitative section. I instantly flipped back to the front cover. Had I purchased the hieroglyphic version of this book? Because I had no idea what I was looking at, let alone could I decipher its foreign language. Eh, no big deal. I assumed it would all come back to me within a day or two. Within a day or two, I reasoned it would come back after a week or two. After a week or two, as I rode the bus to the GRE testing facility, I prayed it would come back during the exam ala A Beautiful Mind. I imagined myself a female (and non-schizophrenic) version of John Nash and compelled the mathematical genius within to reveal itself. Fast. When my score arrived in the mail a few weeks later, my eyes searched for the quantitative result… I hadn’t performed so much like John Nash as I did the guy from Sling Blade. Sidenote: the grad school I eventually attended did not require the GRE.
That was the last time I was truly tested in the academics department. You might ask, “Didn’t you go to grad school after that?” Yeah, I did. For film. Not to say that film studies can’t be strenuous, but let’s call a spade a spade. Going to grad school for film is not the same as continuing your education in law or medicine. While I was debating the legacy of John Hughes in American cinema, my med school friend was delivering babies. There is a difference. Now all I have left to prove my academic worth are Jeopardy! and Trivial Pursuit.
The trick to Trivial Pursuit isn’t so much having raw smarts as having common sense. Most times you don’t need to know the answer at all; you just have to pay attention to the way the question is phrased. Example: “What did 100,000 self-conscious American women buy 200,000 of in 1980?” The key words here? Self-conscious. American. Women. Answer? Breast implants. Obviously. Yet sometimes you still come up short. Especially mortifying is when you know the answer but your brain refuses to release it. Then you look like a real idiot… So I was playing Trivial Pursuit with my family over the holidays. Question: “Who were the actresses that played Thelma and Louise in Thelma & Louise?”
I yelled “Susan Sarandon!” before my cousin even finished reading the card. “And… And… Shoot. Hold on a minute. Just give me a minute. I know this! I know her! I can picture her in my mind right now! She was in The Accidental Tourist. She played the president on that TV show. And she was on Family Ties!” My cousins politely listened to my exercise in thinking out loud. How could I not remember this actress? If my grad school education was to prove useful in any way, now was the time… Nothing. I hung my head in shame as the name Geena Davis was spoken.
And now Jeopardy! How can I possibly compete with a supercomputer? This show was my last saving grace. One of the very few opportunities to feel superior to others, both those on the show and in your living room, should you know “What was Commander in Chief?” when no one else does. And if you didn’t know Commander in Chief? Well, whatever. Nobody watched that show anyway.