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Your Choices Don’t Matter

Tomorrow I face a choice, to go to trivia or not.

Doesn’t sound big, and it isn’t, but I think it is an example of a more general problem.

Most Tuesdays and Thursdays I play bar trivia at The Tin Roof Cantina run by Outspoken Entertainment. As you might expect a lot of questions about current events and history touch on politics. Trivia about presidents, the Constitution, recent elections, wars, and similar touches on politics. The current host at Tin Roof has political opinions and cannot stop himself but editorializing during questions.

For example, did you know that Henry Kissenger isn’t dead? I do because I don’t think I can go two weeks without being reminded because a question on Nixon, Vietnam, the Middle East, or some other topic reminds him of Kissenger and we have to hear about it.

According to the host, Elon Musk came from an apartheid supporting family and all his money comes from gems (sapphires if memory serves) he smuggled from his family’s racist wealth. Is this true? Don’t know, but I hear it with every question about Musk, Twitter, Telsa, or anything else that reminds the host of Musk.

The evils of Reagan, Trump, the Bushes, Republicans, and so on are something I hear about at least two to three times a night.

I’ve called and complained and it had some effect. That’s why it’s down to two or three times on night on average. It used to be twice that. It makes trivia less enjoyable and I’ve questioned continuing to play.

Is it too much to ask for editorializing not to be a part of bar trivia or have we embraced the thesis of Carol Hanisch that it is impossible? I think it is the latter.

Last Thursday was my birthday. Work had been far from perfect and among my circles, there is a lot of rawness over the elections. I was running a bit late and got there as he was giving the answer to the first question, which was something about the Pennsylvania Senate race. But as I opened the door I heard a rant about how Oz was an NJ resident anyway.

I know the argument but how is that relevant to a trivia question about an already finished election?

It isn’t. It’s relevant to a hobby horse I have to listen to as the price of playing bar trivia.

I am reminded of the soup kitchen Edith Keller runs in the Star Trek episode “The City on the Edge of Forever”. When Keller gets up as the poor eat to give her speech one man comments the price of the free meal is listening to her talk. The price of trivia is the host’s political speech. If the food and drink while playing were free that might be acceptable.

However, the food and drink are not free. I have to pay them. In fact, that is the purpose of trivia, which costs the bar money. By running it, and giving gift cards to the winners, Tin Roof hopes to bring in customers whose purchases increase the take on those days.

That night Tin Roof lost my purchases. I never even went through the door, but turned around and drove home.

This was not without cost. C had bought cupcakes and got two members of our team who hadn’t planned to be there that day to come out for my birthday. I didn’t know this nor was I informed, but it has created bad blood.

Still, the fact remains that I’m tired of the host’s bullshit. I once again called the owner of Outspoken Entertainment, this time on my way home, and asked if there was a non-partisan trivia provider since clearly, his company was not. He said he’d talked to his guys because he’d had complaints from other venues but it was clear from his answers he didn’t care about losing my participation.

So, I have to choose, put up with the host’s editorializing or not play trivia. And here is why this becomes an illustration of a general problem.

The only person who my choice affects is me. I have to choose between keeping trivia and putting up with political bullshit or giving up on trivia and losing my most regular social connection.

My choice cannot affect the environment beyond me. Like so many other choices in life, it is a choice between putting up with needless aggravation or doing without. You could say that’s true of everything. I have to either take the time to cook to eat or earn money to buy food at a restaurant. That’s true.

But I’d argue this is not quite that. This is something that is being added as a price (listening to the sermon) which has nothing to do with the product I’m already paying for another way (by purchasing food from the establishment). My reaction is a consumer cannot affect even a small trivia company in Atlanta, Georgia, so small the company’s phone number is the owner of the company.

How can I affect any choice made by larger companies that control my access to pretty much anything in the world?

It’s the perfect illustration of the powerlessness that is the defining aspect of life.

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