The Flipping Table(s)

This is a story about a tiny toy table. Well, a couple of them.

Courtney and I play pub quiz, a lot. We play with a regular group of people at a couple of venues across town. We aim to take a “podium place” home. We come up with a fresh, topical team name every week. We are a bit competitive. It’s a thing.

One of our team rules is: avoid second-guessing ourselves1. The first reasonably confident person to provide the answer to our “quiz scribe” holds sway. Typically, they’re right or confident enough that no further discussion is needed and the answer is scribed to the answer sheet. A terrible way to run a company or government, but an okay way to run a quiz team.

Occasionally, it happens, during a quiz, that two folks will feel that the answer to a question must or must not be something. For instance, there are very frequently questions on the numerically outstanding planets in our solar system. It’s almost always Jupiter or Saturn, but it’s hard to say which. “It’s Jupiter because it has a ton of moons” or “it can’t be Jupiter because Saturn has even more moons”! Well, given the no-second-guessing rule, now we have a pickle. Two conflicting answers, or a non-answer, and what to do about it?

Regardless of how we arrive at it, we can only write one answer. This leaves the door open for us to have the right answer, but write down the wrong answer. Little indignations in jest. We are a bit competitive.

Enter the flipping table

Possibly, you’ve seen the table-flip “emoji”: (┛◉Д◉)┛彡┻━┻. It’s a shorthand for “this makes me have a big, not-good feeling” in online conversation. If not, here’s the late, great Alan Rickman “performing it”:

Alan Rickman turning a table over

That’s how it feels when you suggested the right answer and your quiz team went with the wrong answer anyway. Actually flipping tables would get us kicked out and banned from the venues we frequent, so that’s not an option. However, it happens, tables come in all sizes. Including, very tiny simulacrum of tables.

This is a toy, not an actual dining set

So one night after quiz, I scoured the internet for tiny tables that we could flip. Once I dialed in the search (there are many ways to search for “toy table” on Amazon that will not yield tables that are toys or tables that are flippable amongst polite company), a table was ordered. A few days later, thanks to the magic of just-in-time supply chain logistics2, we had a toy table. So it came that every night, as we were preparing for the quiz, we set out our little (toy) table on top of the (actual) table in case there was a moment of indignation.

Our reputation precedes us

Turns out, flipping a tiny table with your finger is pretty cathartic. The tiny table got a lot of use. We really liked our tiny table.

Even better, a table of adults with a tiny toy table in the center of them is a curious thing. Other teams and quiz hosts inquired about our table. We explained it, let them flip the table. People liked it.

Word of our flipping table spread amongst the Austin pub-quiz community. When new hosts would fill in for our normal quiz host, they would introduce themselves and ask to see our flipping table.

Our reputation for flipping tables preceded us. One could have a worse reputation!

Epilogue for a tiny toy table

As is common of tiny toys delivered by a logistics machine optimized for low cost, the flipping table was not particularly strong. Eventually, we lost or broke it, I don’t remember which.

In any case, a second, slightly larger and fancier flipping table was provisioned. This one even had place settings. Fast-forward a few months, it too broke. One of our quiz teammates took it upon themselves to repair said table. At this point, we had a very robust flipping table, and some of its place settings remaining.

Sadly, our regular quizzing was curtailed by the pandemic, shutting down basically all bars wherein one would play pub quiz. I’m not sure where the flipping table ended up; we haven’t used it in the year since we started quizzing again.

But those months we had a flipping table; glory days!

  1. Other rules:

    • rounds with two options for answers should have some symmetry for the first and second choice

    • if the answer is numerical, there’s a good chance it’s the same as the number of the question, e.g. the answer for round 2 question 3 is probably 3

  2. Back when supply chains worked ↩︎

Adam Keys @therealadam