YARBROUGH COLUMN: No question state quiz can sharpen our pandemic brains

Published 9:30 am Tuesday, November 2, 2021

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I get some interesting mail. And I am not just talking about the reaction to my recent opinion of Donald Trump’s opinion of the late Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell. Not surprisingly, the response has been heavy. Surprisingly, it has been strongly supportive and even more surprising, a preponderance of readers calling themselves lifelong Republicans say they are tired of the guy’s boorish behavior and how he has divided the party and will not vote for him if he runs again. (Please don’t shoot the messenger. I am just passing along the message. Besides, I need this job.)

While all of this was going on, I received a note from representatives of a group called Solitaired.com. They have over 500 games on their website including, of course, Solitaire. But there is a purpose behind the fun say the developers. They are exploring how these games can improve our mental acuity.

They point out that because of a lack of social interaction during the pandemic, many of us may have noticed a frustratingly subtle, gradual mental deterioration within our society, which they call “pandemic brain.” I suspect that there are those among you that surmise I developed pandemic brain long before the pandemic.

They say a lot of us have tried keeping our brains sharp by playing online games or watching historical or educational documentaries.

(Count me in. I am a big fan of Andy Griffith reruns. You can’t get more historic than seeing Mayberry in its heyday or educational than when Andy gives Opie a life lesson about the potential dangers of a slingshot.)

However, no matter what we do, the concern is that our brains still feel sluggish and unstimulated. Therefore, as a public service, Solitaired.com developed a test to “transition back to our pre-pandemic brains,” and quizzed 3,844 respondents on how well they know their own state’s history.

They seemed impressed that over half of Georgians (59%) answered the questions correctly compared to a national average of 57%. Admittedly, I am a mere public school graduate but Katie Dolvin taught me enough math at Russell High School to say this means 41% must have flunked the test. That would not have set well with Ms. Dolvin.

Equally disturbing is the fact that we were waxed by Rhode Island, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Hawaii, all of whom had a 77% pass rate. California brought up the rear. Only 21 percent of Californians knew anything about their state. That is because they are too busy dealing with forest fires, earthquakes and high taxes to care about the past. They are just trying to make it through the day.

As for Georgia’s 59 percent pass rate, we should have at least beaten Mississippi because they are usually last in everything.

The reason we lost to them and Oklahoma and Rhode Island and Hawaii is because none of them have attracted as many Yankees as we have who have no understanding of our illustrious history. They just came here to escape a place where it snows ten months a year and all their buildings are rusted.

For those of us who are natives, the questions on the quiz about Georgia were not exactly head-scratchers. The Cherokee Rose is our state flower. The state was named for King George II. We were the fourth state admitted to the union. Coca-Cola was invented here. Jimmy Carter is from Georgia, as much as it pains me to admit it.

I would suggest the next time the good folks at Solitared.com attempt to transition us back to our pre-pandemic brains, they consider more substantive historical questions that reflect on the uniqueness of our great state, such as: What is the oldest state-chartered university in the nation? Hint: It has 25 Rhodes Scholars and a pretty good football team. (I think we all know the answer to that one.)  What is the greatest state song ever written? (“Georgia on my Mind,” of course.) 

Who sings it better than anyone in the world? (The late Ray Charles Robinson, of Albany, Georgia, of course.)  What is the state’s official amphibian? (The green tree frog.) I thought I should throw an easy one in there. I am now inspired to do my part to continue to help us get beyond the frustratingly subtle, gradual mental deterioration within our society known as pandemic brain. Unless it involves eating broccoli. If that is the case, you are on your own. No question about it.