Gary Brown: How are your observation skills?

Gary Brown

I was on my way to being sort of smart by simply knowing that green is on the bottom of a traffic light.

“CORRECT!” said the online Power of Observation quiz. Celebratory bells and chimes rang. Fist pump.

An email linked me to the test, which the sender said was not intimidating, even though the normal score was seven correct answers to 25 questions.

When I answered that there were 50 states in the United States — “Don’t laugh, some people don’t know,” the quiz people admonished — I was well on my way to getting all the answers right.

“Which hand is the statue of liberty holding the torch?”



Pride brings a loud buzzing sound down upon the sinful.


OK, so I didn’t know what six colors were on a classic Campbell’s soup label. But, I did know what numbers on a telephone keypad don’t have letters attached to them. All right, a telephone was a foot from my face as I was answering. I gave it a glance and felt a little guilty when the bells chimed, but not at much as you’d think.

I stretched my statistics to four right and two wrong answers when I knew that my left arm swung with my right leg when I walked. I received an “incorrect” when I didn’t know how many matches were in a matchbook. It’s 20. I never should have stopped smoking.

When I correctly answered that red is the top color of the stripes on an American flag, the soothing music that had been playing while I took the quiz stopped. Maybe the quiz could tell that the pad for my computer mouse was a flag.

I got the next question — the lowest number on the FM dial — wrong when I answered 87 instead of 88. I’ve got to stop listening to books on disc in the car. But I knew that water goes down a drain clockwise in the Northern hemisphere. And I reasoned that the slash on the “No Smoking” sign went “toward bottom right,” since the other two answers — “toward top right” and “toward bottom left” –– were pretty much the same thing.

So, I stood at seven right and four wrong — I was “normal” — with 14 questions to go.

“How many sides does a stop sign have?” was another question. When asked “Do books have even number pages on the right or left?” I decided to make this an open book test. Left.

“CORRECT!” Chimes! Cheater!


Questions came quickly now. What dwarf was missing from a list — Bashful. How many hot dog buns in a pack — six. On which playing card is the card maker’s logo — ace of spades. On which side of a venetian blind is the cord that adjusts the opening — left. What symbols on the phone have no digits — * and #.  


“How many curves are on a paper clip?”

I don’t know why but “three” was a bit of information that I had stored up where my sister’s birthday should be saved.

I was down to the last question — Does a merry-go-round circle counter or clockwise? — and had a record of 18-6. The quiz people distracted me by adding a third answer, “north.” I answered clockwise. It wasn’t.

Still, 18 right and 7 wrong is not bad, even accounting for the dishonesty.

“Try again?” the quiz asked.