When I lived in the UK, I spent a significant amount of time in cozy, British pubs. They are the epitome of Sherlock-Holmes-loving, chestnut-roasting, dark-beer-drinking Britishness. And perfect for dark winter nights.
I especially frequented a pub with a Sunday night quiz, always nabbing a fire-side booth (charmingly upholstered with Mary Poppins’ carpetbag) for nerdy evenings naming the noble gases, identifying David Bowie songs from 5-second clips, and trying to remember which of Shakespeare’s comedies were set in Italy*.
With sometimes significant cash prizes on the line, tensions and rivalries ran high. More than one poor sod was tempted to cheat. Example: someone of dubious morals (and not, ahem, one of my mates) once wore a periodic table t-shirt under his hoodie so he could double check answers while hidden in a bathroom stall.
In the boisterous crowd, policing answer-seeking web surfing was impossible. So the quiz master’s had only one rule: no phones. The sight of any cell phone would immediately disqualify the team.
Phone bans aren’t entirely new. But a British bar has recently taken the practice to its extreme. In Hove, on the south coast of England, a publican has constructed a Faraday cage around his bar, The Gin Tub.
A Faraday cage, named for Michael Faraday, is essentially a metal cage which disrupts electromagnetic waves. The conductive material redistributes charge to create magnetic fields. (It’s the same reason air travelers don’t get electrocuted when their big, metal jetliner is struck by lightning: the charge moves around the outside instead of through the middle.)
Waves emitted inside the cage stay in and waves emitted outside stay out. Inside The Gin Tub, that means phone calls can’t reach you and your Snapchat selfies are lost in limbo.
How does it work? Hidden behind the drywall, copper mesh is embedded in the walls, ceiling, and floor, completing a six-sided, invisible Faraday Cage. The owner wanted to create a personal atmosphere where people interact face-to-face instead of on screens, hoping to combat the modern trend of tweeting and microblogging every moment.
And if I ever host my own pub quiz, I know what’ll be on my rider.
* Shakespeare's Italian comedies include, in no particular order, Much Ado About Nothing; Two Gentlemen of Verona; A Midsummer Night's Dream; Taming of the Shrew; and The Winter's Tale and The Merchant of Venice, but that depends on your definition of comedy.