Friday, February 14, 2020

A performance only a mother’d love

En route to work yesterday I called in to a Toronto FM radio-station quiz show, I actually got on the air (!) and I won!

Radio station Classical 96.3, at 7:46 a.m., invites listeners to play The Quiz of the Bumblebee.
ONE AL OF A GUY:  If nothing else, this photo of my
mom and nephew will get my brother Alex to read this blog
It works like this: While Flight of the Bumblebee plays in the background, one of the hosts rapidly asks 10 trivia questions; the whole thing takes about three minutes tops and it’s always a hoot.

For one thing, nobody ever tires of that piece of music.
For another, the questions are the exact right level of difficulty. As a listener, I’m usually pretty pleased with outguessing the caller on some but never feel dumb when I get one wrong. It’s a delicate balance.

Best of all, with Quiz of the Bumblebee,  no matter how many questions you answer correctly, you always win. 

The hosts, Mike Duncan and Jean Stilwell, get all excited with each caller and after the quiz is done, one of the hosts tallies up the score and says something like: “Let’s see, you got four out of the 10 right; and you came close with Oscar Peterson when the answer was really Oliver Jones, but what the heck, you did great and you win! Congratulations!”

And get this:  the winners – and I can speak from experience now – are thrilled. Callers respond with an enthusiastic version of “Oh wow! Thank you so much! I love your show!” Even if they got'em all wrong.

COMEDIANS'N'CARS: A Pete-perfect prize
In all the times I’ve listened, the absolute least number of right answers a winner got was two! But yesterday, when I went to the radio station after work to pick up my prize (a pair of passes to the Toronto Auto Show and two tickets to see the very funny Shaun Majumder live, next week)  the receptionist  who handed me my prize  told me she once heard somebody win even with zero correct answers.

After playing the quiz yesterday, I arrived at work, eager to share my exciting news with colleagues. I admitted I scored a middling five out of 10.  

The following questions, I flubbed:   

“Which Vancouver Canuck hockey players had their numbers retired this week?
“What state was Abe Lincoln born in?
“Who, along with Jerry Seinfeld, co-created the Seinfeld show?
“Which country was the third to test the atomic bomb?”
Finally--and the fact that I blew this one I attribute to the biological phenomenon called Cerebrum Crepitus which translated from Latin means “brain fart”--“What kind of fish is lox?” (Cut me some slack here. It wasn’t yet 8:00 a.m.)  

One of my co-workers then asked what questions I got right.

Me: “I knew what country Machu Picchu was in, I knew who Muhammad Ali beat to get his first heavyweight title and I knew, er..  I knew. I can’t remember the other three.” Her: “What does that say about humans? We remember our mistakes but not the stuff we get right.” I am surrounded at work by whipsmart colleagues. (A few minutes later when I told my daughter Ria about my on-air performance, she had the very same response.)

But what I forgot's not important.

What’s important is that from the very first time I heard this contest some years back,  I  thought that the Quiz of the Bumblebee, with its lively music, laughs, dead-easy answers and most of all prizes for everybody no matter how badly they performed—is the kind of thing my late mom Huena would have loved.

Especially the part about everybody winning.

As my brother Ed—the ninth of her 10 kids once pointed out — Huena — who died 15 years ago today—was the only person on earth who could make “coming second last” sound like an accomplishment.  


  1. You do have a wonderful way with words. Congratulations on your victory.

    1. Getting there was half the fun I'll tell ya. Thanks for reading and thanks for the kind words, too!

  2. Congratulations on batting 500 sir!
    You gotta love any contest that showcases the Green Hornet theme song as it's intro.
    Black Beauty roaring into the night.
    Al Hirt on trumpet.
    Let's roll Kato!

    1. Where I grew up, a D is a pass, right? Thanks Kev. See ya soon.