Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Educational games

I love playing games. I learned most of my math skills while sitting on my Dad's lap during cribbage games as a little girl. When I was old enough to remember all the rules, I got to play against him. It was my chance to prove myself to him, I had to be able to not only count my own points, but to double check his...just in case he tested me, to see if I was playing *seriously*. I am 25 now, and just last year he finally did it. I had been nervously checking his points for 15 years before the time had come. He takes his time.

Games are obviously associated with good times, but there are very special memories attached to them for me. I played different games with different people. My grandmother taught me how to play Rummy. This always seemed a little out of character for her as the pacifist, naturalist sage she was, but then again, over the years a lot about my grandmother surprised me. I enjoyed every tidbit. Scrabble was always a big event at her house. I would try my best to get as many points as possible, but being the most highly educated person in our family (both formally and informally), it was just understood that no one would ever beat her. When I started winning, it was very distressing.

My mother's side of the family is Polish and proud of it (in a very self-deprecating fashion). It was always hard for me to understand their penchant for Polish jokes, but I suppose the older third generation Canadian, I'm really quite removed from all that (except for what my family subjects me to). Most of my extended family lives a 25-hour drive from where I grew up, so when we all get together, it's a very special event. They're all very witty and cheerful and all-in-all the gatherings are refreshing reunions where alcoholism is thinly veiled under the guise of "Polish tradition". We're talking about people who'll drink C├Žsers for breakfast because they're healthy. Na zdrowie!

This ubiquitous alcoholism makes for entertaining game playing. Usually we play cards for money. Any game will do really, as long as it's for money. I have fond memories of being very young and winning my first bowl full of dimes. I proudly hoarded my loot for a day or two and then lost it all playing Thirty-one. One rule that applies to all card games is: no mercy for anyone over the age of five. I think it was a valuable learning experience.

I hear that in Poland, when a guest arrives the house bottle of vodka is brought out and consecutive shots are poured for everyone present until the bottle is emptied. And then the drinking begins. That's just the toast. Again, na zdrowie!

But now that I am grown and living in a province sandwiched between my immediate and extended family, there seems to be a shortage of people willing to play card games with me. No one wants to lose their money, and no one wants to put up with the heckling involved in a rowdy game. Every now and then I can convince my boyfriend to play Shithead with me. While there is no betting involved, the amount of possible heckling makes up for it. But more often than not, I am left to play my own games. Today I developed a new one.

My home is positioned in one of those city areas where men sense a quiet corner and immediately get the urge to mark their territory. This drives my neighbor crazy and several times she's called the police to ward off the extremely common species we've come to call: The Urinators. There are different kinds: a) the high rollers who will whip down their drawers in the middle of the park because they just don't give a damn b) the elderly c) raving drunkards who've already been warned.

Today, I witnessed a "C" type approaching the quiet corner. He looked over his shoulder to see if anyone was behind him. He looked toward my neighbor's house to see if she was watching. He took the pre-pee stance (legs apart and ready to unzip)...and at precisely this moment I banged on my window really loudly. I saw him panic and try to determine where the noise was coming from. Then he ran away. He was gone for a full hour before he came back to the park to pass out.

One point for me, zero for The Urinators.
I'm in the lead.

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