Fun and Games
It doesn’t take much to make me happy. One of my simplest joys is finding a coin in the street – usually a penny, but sometimes something larger, and, once in a great while, a paper dollar or more. I bring these treasures home, and put them in a row on top of a bureau. (Any paper money, I fold to occupy very little space.) The game is to see how long the row will become, and whether it will double back upon itself, before the end of the year, when I put everything into a jar, and start all over again. I now have many small jars, each containing a year’s worth of “found money.” Strangely, I’ve never counted the contents, so have no idea of the actual amount – but to me it’s the game itself which counts.
Another game, which you may consider even sillier, involves bath mats (the inner non-slip one, and the outer one, which I step out onto). The game is, after showering, to throw these mats up and over the shower-curtain rail, to dry. It takes considerable skill not to over- or under-throw, and use just the right amount of strength to get them in position. I’ve improved over time, but am still far from being a one-throw champion.
And here’s a game you’ll possibly disapprove of, and which only pedestrians can play. The game is to get from starting point to destination by the shortest possible route. I never do anything I consider unsafe, but I do cut at angles across many streets (a practice which has for many years been denounced as “jay-walking”). The most challenging part of this game involves going diagonally across parking-lots, when they’re at least partly full, especially when the cars are positioned in a herring-bone pattern.
Incidentally the term “jay” was originally applied not to walkers, but to “jay-drivers,” who drove on the wrong side of the road. You may also be interested to know that, while the U.S., which has long been dominated by the “car culture,” frowns upon jay-walking and often imposes legal penalties, there are other countries – even the U.K. – where it is much less deprecated, and the legal onus is always on the drivers, to be watchful for pedestrians.
Then there is another game, which may earn me back some of the Brownie Points I lose by jay-walking. I am a fanatic about picking up LITTER. I partly blame the car culture for the fact that there is so much of it – not just because some people find it so easy to dispose of food-wrappers and other such debris by merely tossing it out of their car windows – but also because most other people in cars, who themselves would never be guilty of such behavior, simply fail to notice all the litter they’re driving past.
It is for us dedicated pedestrians, when we can, to pick up and dispose of the trash we all too frequently come upon. Every morning, I walk once around my block, and part of my game is spotting small pieces of litter, like gum-wrappers, cigarette butts, or bits of scrunched-up silver foil, which even other pedestrians might hardly notice or care about. But picking it all up enables me to boast of living on one of the cleanest blocks in Santa Barbara.
Then there’s the toothpaste game. This is based on the theory that, no matter how much toothpaste you may think you’ve gotten out of the tube, there is always some left for a truly committed squeezer. One rule of this game is that no tools are allowed. It is all a matter of skillfully applied manual force. Of course, there are usually no spectators – but I like to think that, if there were, they would be astonished at how much more toothpaste I can extract from a supposedly empty tube.
Finally, let me share with you another slightly illicit game, which involves the re-use of postage stamps which have already gone through the mail, but, for some reason, escaped being cancelled. In my game, you get extra points if you are able to remove the stamp from its original envelope, while retaining enough of the self-stick glue to make possible its immediate re-adhesion to a clean envelope, without any need to use your own glue.
Summing it all up – as some sagacious thinker once said (in Pot-Shot #9187): “My object is to keep beating myself at my own game – and finally retire undefeated.”