First, I’ll confess that I haven’t been paying much attention to news that, for most of my life, completely absorbed me.
In fact, I found myself deeply shocked on Thursday when I read that Benjamin Netanyahu was taking power again. I mean, I totally missed that there had been an election in Israel, and his party had won. This kind of blew me away. When I told my wife, she couldn’t believe it was news to me. But it was.
I mean, I’m the guy who, late at night in Wichita, used to hold the presses in Wichita awaiting interesting developments in the Philippines (note that these were the days, the mid-80s, when there were really interesting things happening there — Cory Aquino being elected, Imelda’s shoes, etc.). Knowing this, Clark Hoyt in the Washington Bureau would ask me to call him at home and wake him up if anything big happened over there, because he knew I’d be on it, and Wichita had the advantage of being on Central Time.
But now I didn’t know who was running one of the most strategically important countries in the world. Made me feel a bit like Jamie Tartt on Ted Lasso:
Jamie: The second that I found out that George Harrison had died, I realized that I had to stop waiting for life to begin. Start taking chances. Living life to the fullest.
Holly: But George Harrison died 20 years ago.
Jamie: Yeah, but I only just found out.
No, I’m not that clueless about most things in the news, which is why this was such a shock.
However, I am too clueless for The New York Times‘ Great News Quiz of 2022. I suspected this would be the case, and was actually rather pleased when I got any of the questions right (which I did more than 60 percent of the time — but that’s still a failing grade). As for the ones I got wrong, I wonder what’s wrong with people who got them right.
An example, which involves something that I probably would have done badly on even in my days of being hyper-informed. Because I just never have been particularly interested in such a topic (because money), and even if I had in spite of myself, I wouldn’t have memorized the details to this degree:
I mean, are you freaking kidding me? I can see if you had asked me to click on the areas that had seen marked increases in prices, leaving out those that had not. But to know the precise percentages of each, and to put them in the correct order? That’s nuts.
I put two of the five in the right places — the third and the fifth. I put the No. 1 item in second place — which isn’t so bad. I screwed up slightly worse by putting No. 3 in the first position, and by placing what should have been the second in the fourth position. So… not awful, but it looks pretty bad when only two of your five choices are green, meaning they were right.
SPOILER ALERT: Skip this graf if you don’t want the answer sort of given away before you take the quiz… I also messed up — but only slightly — on the question about how long it took the cops to move in during the school shooting in Uvalde. I knew it had been a shockingly long time, and roughly how long that had been, but I was one position off. I know there are people who think in numbers the way I think in words, and the precise number of minutes is perhaps engraved on their brains the way a date such as Dec. 7, 1941, is engraved even upon mine. To someone like me, the important thing was that the cops hung back for more than an hour. I knew that. That’s meaningful. The precise number of minutes is not, to me.
You know how a text such as this strikes me? It’s like a Jim Crow-era “literacy test.” And in this case, the NYT is the local county election official, and I’m the black man who just wants to be allowed to vote. It’s like expecting me to know that George Washington was our first president, so you ask me what kind of wood his false teeth were made from. (OK, so they weren’t really made of wood, but you get the idea.)
And it kinda ticks me off…