one of the defining characteristics of being at home with the family is game night. and by game night, i don’t mean one night a week is set aside for the gathering of family around a polite board game. by game night, i mean any spare moment where there are at least two people and a deck of cards handy.
i am one of four siblings (two of which are married) plus two parents means more often than not, we’ve got too many contenders for what the kitchen table can hold. that doesn’t stop us. we cram on in and start dealing. and perhaps not so surprisingly, it’s from these nights smushed around a too small table that i’ve learned many of life’s lessons:
(1) arithmetic. in the game: if you don’t keep track of your own points, no one will. in life: simple math comes in handy way more than you’d care to admit to your fifth grade teacher; at the grocery store, at work; balancing your checkbook; tipping the waitress; and on and on and oh make it stop.
(2) the art of bragging, aka confidence. in the game: winning (for me) is inconsistent, so you have to toot your own horn when (if) the situation arises. in life: this is the hardest lesson to learn. perhaps start with a “raise the roof” when you do something grand, like remembering to buy the toilet paper. the confidence will build from there.
(3) communication. in the game: you may be playing a partner game. eyebrow waggles. finger snaps. coughs. morse code. these are important TOP SEKRIT forms of communication. learn them. in life: talking in plain english is a vastly underrated skill, so if (when) all else fails, try a series of heel clicks or tongue clucks. that’s sure to get the point across.
(4) deception. in the game: it’s all about the poker face, even if you’re playing go fish. in life: you may feel like you’re unqualified to raise a kid or do the job your boss assigned to you or cook that meal or make that call, so you have to fake it til you make it. good thing you’ve already learned about poker faces.
(5) humility. in the game: you aren’t going to win very often, so the only way to enjoy the bottom of the scoreboard is by wrapping your arm around last place. really, we’re all winners here. in life: really, we’re all winners here.
(6) humor. in the game: again, you aren’t going to win very often, so best to keep the crowds laughing and the mood light. if you’re working a tough crowd, always keep a plate of homemade cookies handy. in life: knock knock. who’s there? canoe. canoe who? canoe lend me some money?
(7) organization. in the game: your cards need to be structured to allow for the fastest possible play. this game waits for no one. in life: oh man, your apartment is smaller than you ever wished for and the closet space is shockingly limited, so organizing your clothes and dishes is a necessity. your job is busier than you ever anticipated and you have almost more work than you can handle, so keeping track of that workload requires many structured calendars. your personal life is full, so figuring out who to meet at which restaurant on what night is important. being organized keeps all those ducks in a row.
(8) patience. in the game: learning the games takes time. waiting for your opponents to make their move often takes longer than you’d like, but then again, if the game seems to be moving along, YOU’RE probably the one soliciting the patience from others. give it so you can get it. in life: you hate waiting, so you are determined not to have anyone wait for you (golden rule, my friends) which means that you are early/on time for everything which means you end up waiting. all the time. deep breath in, patience is a virtue, deep breath out.
(9) shuffling a deck of cards. in the game: this is a lost art form. you’d be surprised at how many people are impressed with this skill, especially the bridge. in life: i repeat, this is a lost art form. you’d be surprised at how many people are impressed with this skill, especially the bridge.
(10) thinking on your feet. in the game: your opponents will make moves you never expected, so you may have to adjust your game winning strategy. in life: you can’t read peoples’ minds, so your friends, family, lovers, enemies, colleagues are bound to act in ways you never imagined. thinking quickly, reacting swiftly is a necessity so long as you want to appear competent.
and now, excuse me. i’ve got to practice shuffling the deck like those vegas guys. hey, if i can’t win at home, at least i can WOW ’em with cheap parlor tricks.