“Getting Trivial With Alexa”
By Jerry Zezima
Here is today’s trivia challenge: What modern figure was famously described by his wife as “an encyclopedia of useless information”?
(a) Albert Einstein, (b) Alex Trebek, (c) Pat Sajak, (d) Jerry Zezima
If you guessed (d), you are correct! Unfortunately, you do not win a Caribbean cruise or cash and prizes totaling $100,000, but you do have my eternal (or at least temporary) gratitude.
My wife, Sue, who used to think I didn’t know anything worth knowing, now knows better.
That’s because she and I recently teamed up to score our 1,000th point in Question of the Day, a game of knowledge hosted by Alexa, the virtual assistant who operates on artificial intelligence.
What Alexa doesn’t know, but Sue does, is that I was born with artificial intelligence.
For years I had been boring her (Sue, not Alexa) with my impressive knowledge of subject matter she considers trivial but which I maintain is invaluable to the well-being of society.
That includes my greatest area of expertise: the Three Stooges.
I proudly know, for example, that Curly’s real name was — this is absolutely true — Jerry.
“That’s not useless information, toots!” I once told Sue. “Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!”
She has come to appreciate my knowledge of stuff nobody else cares about. And I have come to appreciate her knowledge of stuff she learned (but I seldom studied) in school.
Together, Sue and I are an unbeatable team in Question of the Day, mainly because we play alone and have no competition.
We began playing a few weeks ago for what I admit was a trivial reason: We had nothing better to do. Pretty soon, we were hooked.
Now, every day at lunch, unless we aren’t home or we forget, in which case we are out to lunch, Sue and I are put to the test.
“Alexa,” Sue will say, “what’s the Question of the Day?”
“Welcome back to Question of the Day, your daily trivia challenge,” Alexa will respond in her pleasant disembodied voice.
Then she will tell us in which of the game’s six categories — arts and entertainment, science, literature, geography, general knowledge and history — she will quiz us and how many points the question is worth. The higher the number (10 is tops), the harder the question.
If we answer correctly, we get a bonus question. Sometimes we get that one right, too, and rack up even more points.
If we answer incorrectly, I am usually to blame.
“I was going to say (a),” Sue will tell me after I have wrongly guessed (b).
“To (b) or not to (b)?” I asked one day.
“That’s not the question,” Sue answered.
Recently, our point total was 998.
“We’re two points away from 1,000!” I said excitedly.
Sue summoned Alexa, who posed this question: “Which of the following is NOT considered to be one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World?”
The choices: (a) Taj Mahal, (b) Lighthouse of Alexandria, (c) Colossus of Rhodes, (d) Great Pyramid of Giza.
If I guessed (b), I’d be Lightheaded, (c) I wouldn’t be a Rhodes scholar or (d) I’d be banished to the Great Pyramid of Geezer. So, in consultation with Sue, I went with (a).
“Good job!” Alexa exclaimed.
After giving us some interesting facts about the Taj Mahal (it was built in the mid-17th century and is considered one of the Wonders of the Modern World) and informing us that only 47 percent of previous players got this question right, Alexa said, “You have reached a milestone — your 1,000th point in Question of the Day. Congratulations!”
We celebrated by treating each other to lunch at the kitchen table. Sue had an apple and I had a peanut butter sandwich.
“You can’t say I’m an encyclopedia of useless information now,” I said.
“I guess not,” she conceded.
“And if you think that’s impressive,” I bragged, “just wait until Alexa asks me a question about the Three Stooges.”
Copyright 2023 by Jerry Zezima