Question: Which of the following has the greater total number on the planet today - people or chickens?

Before you cluck your tongue in dismay at the apparent simplicity and irrelevance of such a question, consider what you might think if you heard it in the thick of competition. Once the clock is ticking there is no chickening out of an answer.

This is not always easy. After all, it might be a trick question. Many of us frequently eat chicken, and eggs, but the bird bounty could be deceptive in our disproportionately wealthy and cuckoo-for-chicken country.

You begin to realize that while the subject matter of any one question may seem superficial, this competition is not entirely for mental featherweights.

Such issues flocked into a wide assortment of knowledge-testers and a sorely needed evening of escapism recently in the form of "Trivia Night," an event hosted weekly at Baked Alaska in Astoria. The game is by definition a trivial pursuit, but as more people pay to play the prize earnings rise, and the winnings are not exactly chicken feed.

But more than the prizes, the fun emerges from finding out what facts you may have tucked away in your brain, your ability to unravel twisted puzzles, your seasoning for reasoning and even how well you can guess.

Arriving at the tail end of the first round, I was honored and humbled to learn my friends had named our team "The Bolchunian Slip." Unlike a Freudian Slip, the term refers to a distinctive kind of absurd behavior - and specifically to an occasion when I backed into a chair and apologized to it.

We live in a world immersed in trivial questions. This quality is unfortunate when considering politics, but fun for recreational purposes. The phenomenon extends from the aptly named home board game of Trivial Pursuit to massive annual college competitions and national TV game shows.

I once happened to be in a quaint British pub when the proprietors began hosting a quiz game for the patrons.

I couldn't come close to answering questions such as "what's the second most common item stored in the boot of a lorry?" But when the questions turned for a short time to that American film "Jaws," I must admit I got on rather swimmingly.

However, I'm afraid my trivial edge the other night in Astoria was rusty.

Sure, we provided the correct answers to quite a few questions. We knew a triangle with two sides equal is an isosceles, by gum, and sometimes we had bonus information - the car in which James Dean died was not just a Porsche, it was a Porsche Spider, for example. And Peter Rabbit's siblings were "Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail." So there.

But despite our collective knowledge and reasoning power, our minds lurched in vain for other answers. We knew "D" for "Denver" signified one of the locations of U.S. mints, none of us could recall that the "O" on a coin stands for "New Orleans."

How about the name of Superman's pet chimp, or the state that produces the most eggs in the country?

As each round of questions progressed, we came close to the finals - just as we came close to so many answers. We wrestled with logic and memory, whispering so we would not tip off opponents at nearby tables.

Sometimes we knew we were stumped.

By the time we were asked to name the last fort occupied by Gen. George Custer before the Battle of Little Bighorn, for example, we suggested "French Toast." Of course it wasn't close to Fort Abraham Lincoln, but it had a good ring to it.

We found ourselves pondering a few of the questions days later. I'd like to think such persistence suggests a healthy compulsion in us all to know and learn and share - a trait hearkening to our days in elementary school.

I'd like to think that, but maybe the answer is more trivial. Some day, someone just might ask us how the number of people on this planet compares with the number of chickens, and they might egg us on to provide an answer. We want to be able to cross that road, and proudly reply that chickens outnumber us two to one.

When considering questions about chickens and eggs, Brad Bolchunos, the south county reporter for the Daily Astorian, says his brain seems to have flown the coop, and that maybe he should start from scratch.


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