You know that feeling when the name of something is on the tip of your tongue, but you can’t remember it? Or when you know you read an article about something that happened in the last few months, but can’t remember the exact detail that was just asked? Or how about when you know the exact lyrics to a song, but not the name of a song itself? Or can describe the plot of a book or movie in its entirety, but can’t remember the name of the author, or the name of the movie? Of course you do. Everyone does, and trivia nights are great for it.

It’s the 1st of June, 2018. For the life of me, I can’t remember what question was asked, but I remember it had something to do with Moana. I think it might have even been one of those “name this picture”-type rounds, and the picture was the character The Rock voices in the movie. You know, the big muscled guy? The one with all the tattoos, and the long curly hair? Wait, what was his name again? Maui! That’s the guy.

Anyway, I didn’t remember his name at the time, even though I had obviously watched Moana before. No one else in my team did either, so I knew it was up to me to rack my brain, remember the name, and write it down. In-between rounds, I quickly looked up the Moana page on IMDB, knowing that it would be the fastest way to tell me the name of the character. I did so, and it maybe took me 10 seconds. 15, tops. I whispered the name to someone else my team, as a kind of lament I couldn’t remember it when it needed to be remembered.

They immediately admonished me for cheating. Somewhat taken aback, I offered up the explanation that I just needed to know, and that I wasn’t going to write it down or submit it as an answer. In my mind, I was in the clear: sure, I had “cheated” and looked up the answer. But was it really cheating if I didn’t use my newfound knowledge to my advantage? Was it really cheating if I didn’t confirm or deny whatever answer my team submitted as the answer to that trivia question? I didn’t think so at the time, and still don’t. Sure, it might have been wrong to look up the answer then and there, instead of later that night after trivia had ended, but how wrong that is could be debated, too.

Benny and the Jets ended up winning that particular trivia night by one point, and I’m proud to say we didn’t do it by cheating.

Fast forward a year. It’s the 11th of June, 2019. Benny and the Jets has made a return, both in terms of team name and at trivia. This time around, it’s a team of my own choosing, made up of a mix of people I work with and a few others that I’m at least somewhat acquainted with, even though I don’t know all of the personally.

We’re doing OK. We won the first round, and have come in the top three for a few others. Then halfway through the music round, it happens.

Someone in my team cheats.

Had we ended up winning, I would have felt bad. But we ended up coming third, one point behind the team that came second, so now I’m not sure how I feel. On the one hand, it’s a little sad that we cheated, got away with it, and still didn’t win. But it’s not like that somehow justifies it, you know? It’s not as if you can say “hey, we didn’t win, so it’s OK”, because that’s a incredibly slippery slope.

And on the other hand, I know it doesn’t matter, in the grand scheme of things, at least not in the way that only a few things do. But if you have a conscience, that little voice in your head that tells you when you’re doing the wrong thing, and you still do the thing anyway, then that’s something you’re going to have to be OK with, you know?

It’s making decisions all over again, along with all the potential regret that comes along with it.

To be fair, we’re only talking about cheating at trivia here. But I feel as though there’s an applicable life lesson here, one that says how you’re the master of your own decision making. You’re the one that has to weigh up whether the payoff would be worth living with the consequences, and you’re the one that gets to decide whether that line gets crossed1.

Now all I have to do is remember it.

  1. And if you’re the one that personally selected the people for your trivia team, you kind of feel personally responsible for the decisions they make. Good and bad, morally wrong, and morally right. And then you feel even worse when you didn’t have the kind of upstanding moral fibre they talk about in Harry Potter to stand up for your own morals and tell them it was wrong to cheat. 

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