Life is just a series of games, no matter who you are. Some are challenges thrust on you by the world, while others are goals of your own making, for your own amusement. Either way, it’s what keeps it all interesting, and why you’ll never get any real satisfaction, or stories to tell, from having things handed to you. When an activity seems simple, you should look for the game. It’s usually there, and if you don’t play it, you can’t win.

When the day’s objective involves the consumption of pasta, for instance, pastimes sprout up all over the place. When you’re in line at the grocery store with your fresh ravioli and Paul Newman’s alfredo sauce, a new checkout might open. It’s up to you to recognize the mission and understand that there is no order here, and there shouldn’t be. It’s a rush to the cash, a battle with the other customers, and there’s no denying it’s a gamble, for it could end up being a fake out, in which case you could end up at the back of your original line. Then later, while boiling the pasta, toss the strainer out the window. You should repurpose the mundane to test your dexterity, using only the lid, placed just so against the top of the pot. The small aperture you’ve created is for draining the water without losing any of the pasta, and a successful pour will grow your confidence and leave you ready to take on anything else the world throws at you. Even later still, as you reheat the leftovers in the microwave, test yourself by estimating exactly how long it will take to warm up to the perfect temperature. You might lose and be disappointed, but if you win this round, celebration is in order.

Over the course of it all, I’ve developed specific skills in games that no one else would care to claim or even recognize as games. I’m particularly adept at bank machines. Some people take twenty minutes to get a few bucks out, almost like every time up the interface is a whole new world to them. But it’s where I thrive, tapping the right buttons before the words even have time to appear on the screen, sometimes leaving my eyes closed for the transaction. Pew pew pew, like lasers my fingers go, for my money to come to me. And I don’t even use Quick Cash, what I call the amateur’s withdrawal. There’s also my unparalleled ability to kill fruit flies, and I don’t mean the easy way, letting the dish soap in the saran-wrapped bowl do the work. I work mainly with my hands as tools, but when I’m feeling feisty I’ll seize the hungry insects between two chopsticks like that ninja fella. My favourite talent is my ability to know my exact position in the world, and the optimal way to get back home. The cardinal directions and I have an understanding, my whereabouts always known, at least to me¹.

Admittedly, I also have some flaws that you wouldn’t expect, and at times they can be disheartening. I’m terrible at gauging wind direction. It should be easy enough, right? Lick your finger and stick it up in the air to see which part of it gets cold. Well that just doesn’t make any difference for me, and I will never know which way the wind blows. My stud-detecting abilities could also use a bit of work. Of course I’ll never resort to having a magnetic device help me know where to hand my pictures, so I’ll knock on different parts of the drywall with my ear pressed against it, and still all my rooms are littered with tiny nail-sized holes. Finally, and this is the hardest one for me to accept, especially since it’s not really a flaw or a game, but mostly a unwavering lack of ability in a facet of real import. I’ve tested this enough times, and I am old enough now to realize that I will never possess old man strength.

¹ [and Google and Apple and whatever companies they sell my data to]

December 5 – Ronnie O’Sullivan gets the games of life
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