Your RDA of Irony

My Second Career

What made me a Jeopardy champion?  Was I an extraterrestrial or a mutant with super powers? Washington University–or at least its Psychology Department–wanted to know.  So I was invited to an all-expense paid interrogation to St. Louis.   Once I was assured that the tests would not require any surgery or involuntary breeding programs, I agreed to be a guinea pig.  Being the center of attention, how could a devout megalomaniac refuse.

My flight from Chicago was undramatic.  Despite being American Airlines, there were no unscheduled fires and the plane landed with no missing engines or passengers.  Awaiting me at the airport was a Hollywood moment.  You know the scene where a chauffeur is holding up a sign with the name of his passenger?  It happens to Richard Gere’s characters all the time, but now it was happening to me.  Let the pampering begin!   Of course, the Psych Department was also being practical.  It did not want me lost and wandering around the airport, accosting strangers with unsolicited lectures on the actual St. Louis.  “You know he actually was King Louis IX, and his sanctity far surpassed his competence....”  A chauffeur would still be cheaper than bail. 

My savior and chauffeur was a charming young staff member of the department.  (I should add that everyone was young compared to me.)   Of course, she was delighted to meet me.  Under most circumstances, I am an appealing alternate to grading freshmen’s papers or feeding lab rats.  I was driven to the campus, where I found the buildings to be a directory of Missouri philanthropists.  Danforth here, Olin there, and–need I add–Busch this and that.  I was staying at a guest center named for a publishing magnate. 

But I wouldn’t be eating there.  Reservations had already been made at some of St. Louis’ finest restaurants.  The grad students were eager to take me to lunch and dinner.  Was it my inordinate charm and the remnants of good looks?  No, the department was picking up the tabs, and my “hosts” could enjoy quail and wine instead of their usual post-grad diet of ramen noodles and Mountain Dew.  Being a conscientious guinea pig, I refrained from any alcohol.  To be honest, I am the type who would rather have two desserts than two cocktails.  And wine lists intimidate me; the sommelier hates my request for a wine most like soda pop.

So I probably was quite a dull guest.  My Saturday night hosts must have thought so.  The itinerary of these two lads took us past a number of St. Louis casinos and clubs.  Of course, they would never suggest that we venture into such dens of debauchery; but if I had suggested it, my hosts would have been too polite to refuse.  However disappointed, my guides did comply with my deviation:  to make a pilgrimage to Ted Drews, the legendary frozen custard stand of St. Louis.

Of course, you want to know about the tests.  Alas, because of research confidentiality I cannot tell you.  If it is any consolation, you are not missing much.   I don’t know if I helped advance mankind’s understanding of “cognitive functions”, and I certainly disabused them of the hope that I was a X-Man.  (Really, what would my Super Power be:  the ability to turn any situation into a drawing room comedy.)   But I certainly enjoyed being a guinea pig. If Washington U is willing to subsidize further audiences with me, it might want to test me for Asperger’s Syndrome.   Jeopardy champs could have it.



  1. wayne rhodes says:

    Wonder if Watson got the same treatment!

  2. BobKincaid says:


    Truly you are walking in the foosteps of my hero, Mr. Clemens. “One American I met there told me he would rather decline two drinks than one German adjective.” You’ve taken it a step further by upping the ante to a double dessert.

    But you REALLY should’ve stopped into the casino. Imagine yourself in the Dustin Hoffman role from “Rainman,” counting into a 7-deck shoe at the blackjack table, all while the mystified grad students watched!

  3. Hal Vincent says:

    Eugene, here’s theoretical bonus cash for ensuring the first sentence of your hilarious Jeopardy article is in the form of a question.

  4. Joan Stewart Smith says:

    Can’t believe you could ever be a dull guest, Eugene!!!!

  5. Howard Epstein says:

    Maybe they will find you have Augsberger Syndrome: every time you have a beer you fall down.

  6. Cindy Starks says:

    Eugene — You left out all the good parts. I took a stroll with you only because I thought the Qs awaited me at the end. Sigh… They did not.

  7. Michele says:

    A gentleman, a scholar, a Jeopardy champ and a guinea pig. What’s next for you, Eugene?

  8. Tosh Keune says:

    One of the Quiz bowl team captains after my son’s time has augberger syndrome and that team was our regional “It’s Academic” champion as a result. Longest running series on TV (52years).

    All my son could manage was the team’s first trophy in a decade and a couple first round wins.

    He has turned out ok so far he had writing jobs as part of the great conservative conspiracy at the Wall Street Journal and National Review. Right now he is Chicago looking for places to live as he studies comedy writing at Second City. How’s that for a change.

  9. TonyH says:

    Very entertaining! I might say that you were lucky. My brother was examined my researchers who wanted to discover the secret of his happiness. They stuck him in a brain scanner, which quickly took the smile off his face.

  10. Brent Hoffmann says:

    Gene — You’re always the perfect guest, Aspberger’s, OCD or whatever.

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