Thursday, March 26, 2009

For 10 points: 'What is...public humiliation?'

For 10 points: 'What is...public humiliation?'


I haven't slept well in weeks, maybe months. It wasn't the redesign launch this month keeping me awake, or worries about the collapse of the world economy and the resulting disappearance of my 401(k).

Ever since I accepted the invitation of East End Arts Council director Pat Snyder to be a contestant in the East End Charity Game Show tomorrow night, I've lain awake in bed night after night, gripped by fear.

What was I thinking?

It's true enough, this is nothing new. I have a hard time saying no to people, especially when there's a good cause to help. (I did, however, draw the line at taking "the plunge" into a local body of water in December to benefit Peconic Bay Medical Center. I don't know which was more off-putting: the idea of jumping into 40-degree water or being seen in a bathing suit by hundreds of people.)

So when Pat called me up to ask if I'd be willing to be a contestant in this Jeopardy-like game show, I said, "Sure!" And regretted it before I even hung up the phone.

That was even before I found out who was making up the questions. Cutchogue resident Jeff "Doc" Greenberger, Harvard Club distinguished teacher of Latin and ancient Greek will be doing the honors. Oh, swell. The man is a walking encyclopedia.

"Don't worry," Pat assured me when I expressed the panic growing in the pit of my stomach. "He won't make the questions too difficult."

Yeah, right. I have to consult a dictionary just to read Doc's e-mails sometimes. I'm here to tell you Doc Greenberger has no idea what "difficult" means to a mere mortal like me.

For a while, I suffered in solitude, not even divulging what I'd gotten myself into to my family. I was smarter than that. I knew how my teenagers -- both of whom are among Doc's Latin students -- would react.

"LOL," said Katie. (Kids nowadays actually speak Internet shorthand. For the uninitiated out there, "LOL" means "laughing out loud.") "You?" She rolled her eyes. "That's ridiculous."

Thanks for the confidence-boost, kid.

In mid-January, I found myself seated next to Riverhead Town Councilwoman Barbara Blass at a breakfast meeting. Pat Snyder stopped at our table and mentioned the game show.

"I can't believe I agreed to do this," Barbara confessed in a hushed voice as Pat walked away. "I am absolutely terrified," she said. We commiserated. Our upcoming public humiliation would be complete and swift -- on the first round of questions, no doubt.

"Don't worry," Pat had tried to soothe us. "Each contestant will be paired with a brainiac high school student." We'd be able to rely on our student partner's mental acuity to answer questions about subjects we once may have known something about but have long since forgotten.

Great. This only means I'll have the special opportunity of embarrassing myself in front of six of my daughters' friends. So I'll embarrass them in addition to myself.

A few weeks back, I was getting a haircut. Linda Langhorn (who would prefer not to be identified as responsible for my hairdo, since my idea of "styling" my hair is running my hand through it after towel-drying) had a Charity Game Show poster hanging in her shop. She cheerfully informed me that her husband, Butch, was a contestant.

"He's terrified," she said. "He's so afraid he's not going to know anything."

Join the club.

The poster said WRIV manager and morning host Bruce Tria was also a contestant. I called him up.

"Scared? Are you kidding? I'm beside myself with fear," he said, adding, "I'm hoping to enter the witness protection program immediately after game show ends." There might be dead air on WRIV come Monday morning.

None of us has a handle on how to prepare for this thing. Councilwoman Blass thought it would be a good idea to watch Jeopardy on TV, try to play along. Big mistake. She watched it with her daughter, home from college for the weekend. "Mom, you really need help," Juliet (RHS Class of '08) informed her. "Why couldn't it be Wheel of Fortune? You're pretty good at that."

Truly. I can think of any number of game shows I'd rather compete in. Password. Family Feud. Beat the Clock. Or even the weekly NPR news quiz show, Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me! -- all familiar territory. But testing my dwindling intellect on questions written by Doc Greenberger in categories such as "Ancient Times," "World History," "Literature in English," and "Inventions, Discoveries and Scientists"? I'm doomed.

You can come to Riverhead High School and watch us all make complete fools of ourselves tomorrow night at 6 p.m. If there's one thing I (still) know it's this: You won't be disappointed.

Ms. Civiletti invites you to join a discussion of this topic at Her e-mail address is


Brad Berthold said...

Good luck to all! Don't worry, when all is said and done, you'll all still be respected leaders in a community that loves you all.

Cave fatuam!

Ceil said...

Hi Denise, how did you do? I didn't receive a breaking news bulletin through my my email: Editor Humiliated in Front of a packed it must have went well however................
If I don't see an your column this week, I'll know you are in the witness protection program.

Brad Berthold said...

Me too!

So,how'd ya do?

Pat Snyder's letter this week left it all a mystery too.

C'mon Denise, Pat,Butch, et al, fess up!

Why don't you publish some of the questions and see how your readers do?

I only see the paper on line, so if you did indeed publish it in the "dead tree" version, never mind!

Hope you all had fun.