The first time Arjun Dirghangi walked into trivia night at the P&H, it wasn't because he had all the answers. It was because he wanted a beer.
"It was completely accidental," the medical student says. "Instead of walking into my usual friendly watering hole, I barged in on [what felt like] a university library the night before finals."
The bar was completely silent except for people nervously clearing their throats and the host repeating the question. When Dirghangi called out to the bartender, the players glared at him.
"I sheepishly settled in at a barstool, trying to make as little racket as possible," he says, "and asked [the bartender] what was going on. 'Trivia night,' he said. 'Pretty serious.'"
August marked the five-year anniversary of the P&H Café's weekly trivia nights, one of the most popular gatherings in Midtown.
"We have an audience that includes varied folks such as graduate students, senior citizens, high-level executives, news personalities, and P&H regulars," says Beth Okeon, one of a team of emcees who host trivia night. "There is no typical trivia night player. The only thing they have in common is that they're all sure they're right."
The players, gathered in teams in dimly lit booths or around tables, pay $3 each to test their knowledge. The entrance fee gets divided into the winning pot, usually just enough to cover the team's tab. Each team chooses a name for itself, such as Touched by an Uncle, the Neverland Ranch Hands, and Barry's Bail Bonds.
"People just like the atmosphere," Okeon says.
There is never much ceremony to begin the game; the judges simply begin reading the rounds' questions, regardless of whether the audience is ready:
"Whose name is mentioned twice in the R.E.M song "It's the End of the World As We Know It?"
"Name the original members of the Jackson Five."
"What did Lloyd Dobler say was the sport of the future?"
Okeon and her colleagues are solely responsible for creating the night's questions. They often range from pop culture to current events to the just plain bizarre, but most questions come with a side of wit and sarcasm.
"Letting trivia be what the audience wants it to be has kept it going this long," Okeon says, "We feel that as long as we respond to the group's continual yet helpful feedback, it will continue to be a place where people gather."
When asked what she feels the future holds for trivia night, Okeon replies, "I think it will probably come to an abrupt end this week. ... Just kidding."