Going Mensa

American Beauty.
Though "the human calculator" and "geek on a stick" are mighty clever nicknames, being an intellectual titan requires more than ostracism from a peer group or a regular flogging by the playground bully.

So think fast: If it were two hours later, it would be half as long until midnight as it would be if it were an hour later. What time is it now?

Hell knows, but that's a typical question on the entrance exam for Mensa, the 53-year-old "society for bright people." Armchair Einsteins can take the entrance exam on Saturday morning, then party with the big brains at the Mensa regional gathering that night -- whether or not they pass.

Candidates have two hours to take the test. "Of course, not everyone takes that long," says Nancy Heller, regional chair for the group. Those who score in the top 2 percent -- or register an IQ of at least 132 -- can join the legion of smarties, which has about 100,000 members worldwide.

And a pocket protector is not required. "Mensa people are as diverse as any other group," says Heller, an acoustic-guitar-playing lawyer. Other regional members include a tool-and-die maker (Heller's husband, whom she met at a Mensa conference in New York) and a six-year-old girl, who will be drinking grape juice at the gathering's beer and wine tasting.

Whizzes can also let their hair down with euchre games, a dance with a DJ, a quiz bowl, a belly dancing demonstration, a joke-off, and a lecture on Y2K readiness. But a really big draw should be the take-apart party, in which members watch computer guy Mike Mayers disassemble "old appliances and junk" and explain how things work.

Another sexy topic will be "the dumb things Mensas do," says Heller, noting that comparing test scores is particularly gauche at Mensa parties. A presentation on "Mensa Bloopers" was a hit at the national Mensa conference two years ago, though Heller can't recall what they did that was dumb. Drinking milk from the wrong end of the carton? Watching TV upside down? We'll never know.

Heller says she's never encountered any Mensa wannabes -- people who weren't quite smart enough to pass the test. And she has no perspective on failing, or cramming, having never actually taken the test -- her high scores on the LSAT made her a shoo-in. -- Michael Gallucci

The Mensa entrance exam is administered at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Aurora Woodlands Resort, 800 North Aurora Road. Cost is $30; advance registration is not required. For more information, call 800-877-7849.

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