Skull Features

When I was about 15 my best friend Sarah and I spent quite a lot of time playing the current craze that was Trivial Pursuit – while playing her dad’s old 1970’s rock records, which I now realise was another sort of education.

So one day we were sitting playing yet another game – my favourite cheeses were green (science), blue or pink – and she liked blue or orange, but preferably blue – geography. She knew all the capital cities, lakes, major rivers etc. We were both a bit precocious and didn’t like when we got questions wrong, which made us competitive, but we were pretty equal so the games usually went along quickly and amicably.

One occasion sticks in my mind though – Skull Features.

It was my turn to ask the question from the card, and Sarah landed on a green. I read the question out, I think it went something like “Name the Pacific island discovered by the Dutch in 1722” and she replied, flatly, “Skull Features”.

Now as I knew the answer from the card, and also knew what the place was famous for, I thought she was joking but she had the calmest straightest expression; she thought this was actually the name of the island. I gave her a few more chances to suggest other names but she was insistent that it was Skull Features, and was getting a bit snappy about it. So, I had to tell her she was wrong and actually the correct answer was Easter Island.

At this point there was a bit of a strop where she continued to insist that the answer was Skull Features, to the point that she grabbed the card to prove it – she was totally convinced I was cheating. And there on the back of the card was the green answer “Skull Features”. So she was triumphant, this was the proof she was right, there you go.

I couldn’t believe it – until I checked the question and realised I was so used to her landing on blue, I’d read out the blue question by mistake. In fact the question I should have read was the green: “What is Phrenology the study of?”

So then the penny dropped – she’d read the green answer while I was holding up the card to read the question out. I realised she had been reading the answers upside down, and may have been doing it for weeks.

So here’s where we had quite a “heated debate” – I can’t remember what happened afterwards but as we were at her house playing her game it probably involved me heading home, on the way probably trying to tell whoever would listen about how she’d cheated. I don’t remember the disagreement lasting long though as we both knew a good friend when we had one. We were part of a wider group of about 6-8 friends and we stayed close right through sixth form, and I keep in touch with most of them except, sadly, Sarah. I’d love to see her again.

So, looking back, I had been proven to be a good gameplayer, following rules and expecting others to do the same. I was so innocent and trusting I didn’t even consider it as a possibility that someone would cheat.

On the other hand, Sarah had taken an easy short-cut presented to her, making a positive result more likely in order to gain an advantage.

So … who’s the real winner?

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