Confessions of a Trivia “Hustler”

Today, I was in our friendly local library, and my husband I were renting some Star Trek DVDs – a couple of seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan.

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Ricardo Montalban and his prosthetic chest in Wrath of Khan. Which was actually his real chest! Why Mr. Roarke, we had no idea you were so buff underneath that white suit!

While we were checking out, one of the clerks commented about all of the Star Trek stuff we were renting, and my husband said we were going to be “studying” for an upcoming trivia night.

Another clerk sitting next to her put in her two cents.

“Maryann is the Star Trek expert around here,” she said, referring to the clerk who had been waiting on us.

I wasted no time putting on my “hustle.” I gave her my e-mail address, phone number, Facebook handle and phone number, and told her about the Star Trek trivia night February 21.

“Oh bummer, I have to work that night,” she said.

Without skipping a beat, I said, “Well, maybe you could trade shifts with someone.” I’m a veteran of the service industry, I know that in these kinds of professions, workers trade shifts all of the time. Once, I even BRIBED a co-worker with a gift card to entice her take one of my shifts. Another time, a co-worker desperate to get more hours worked a double shift by taking one of my shifts (she was in her early 20s, so it was probably nothing to her)!

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Paul Newman as “Fast Eddie” Felson in the 1961 film The Hustler. Yes…I do have a bit of a crush on Paul Newman! The “sequel” to this movie was the 1986 film The Color of Money.

Her co-worker was on my side – she encouraged her to do this!

“You GOTTA play in this game, Maryann.”

I tried greasing the wheels a bit, too!

“If you played with us, I’d definitely consider you a ringer,” I said. “You’re welcome to join my away team.”

Based on multiple brief conversations we’ve had with her, my husband and I both know she’s REALLY into science fiction! She has made lots of good recommendations to us as well.

Honestly, I don’t expect anything to come of this! But it’s always fun to put on the “hustle.” My first experience as a “hustler” was in the late fall of 2012, when I came across a guy in a bar who had managed to get a very tough sports final question correct. As my teammates joked, I wound up “picking him up” and he actually helped our team in a few tournaments! He was kind of a sports nerd, so he helped fill some knowledge gaps our team had – as well as the “young guy” stuff. He’s since gotten married and we’ve kind of lost touch with the trivia thing, but it was fun having him in our mix in those early days!

In 2017, I was tasked with hustling a player for an ’80s music trivia night. Since I had no other way of contacting this player other than talking to him face to face, I went to one of the trivia nights he frequented, and I wasted no time putting on the “hustle.”

“Mike, I’ve got a proposition for you,” I said to him. He was on to me instantly!

He just kind of gave that “knowing” look and said, “I know you! You’re being a hustler.”

Yup! Guilty! Long story short, he did wind up playing with our team, and we won first place/$100. He was a bit older than the rest of our team, so he helped balance things out nicely.

And once…I was even “outed” for hustling a player I had acquired legitimately! I was in a bar in Saline last summer, and I decided it was high time for one of my “reservist” players, Evan, to meet another longtime player. So I introduced the two of them.

The other player made a remark along these lines: “She’s always got the tentacles extended wide,” to Evan. He was, of course, referring to my trivia team name – Miskatonic University Fighting Cephalopods, for which our “mascot” is an octopus, or squid, or Cthulhu. And he was accurately describing my typical M.O. (clearly he knows me too well).

I quickly corrected him.

“He actually came to ME,” I said, and told the story about how Evan fell into my lap two days before a tournament after he randomly messaged me on Facebook.

Other than that? I’ll own up to being a trivia “hustler!” I’m always on the lookout for talent!

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