One of the things I’m already enjoying about being “temporarily out of work” or “between jobs” or “finding myself” or some other such shit is the sense of peace and calm that has come over me. A scant six hours after leaving my former job for the last time I endeavored to use this newfound tranquility of soul to my advantage. Since I didn’t have to worry about answering a work phone, checking email, or trying to accomplish things that I’ll have time for tomorrow I thought a fun family game night would be in order.
I may have mentioned on these pages once or twice that my children have inherited from me some rather desirable traits such as a quick wit, stellar vocabulary, and devastating good looks. OK, two out of three ain’t bad. Armed with these gifts we sat down – Mommy, Daddy, and the two kids – to play a family favorite. It’s called Ticket to Ride. The board features a map of the US circa 1850 and lots and lots of “routes” between pinpointed cities. Along these routes players build railroads by collecting and then distributing cards. The player who successfully builds the railroads on his route cards typically wins the game except that there are bonuses. For instance, a player receives a bonus for having the longest continuous railroad. Why, you might ask, would anyone invent such a riveting game about antebellum transportation? Clearly Parker Brothers had beaten them to the punch on their original concept – a board game about the triangle slave trade for players 8 and up.
About ten minutes into the game I had amassed a handful of cards with different routes on them. My prospects looked good at completing a transcontinental takeover. “I’m going to drive the golden spike!” I thought as I approached Salt Lake. How fantastic… My wife even encouraged me to use a little known maneuver and collect even MORE route cards. “Listen,” she said, “You’ve already laid a lot of track down. It’s very likely you already have completed routes that you could claim.” Seemed like a good idea.
My son, meanwhile, was studying the map like a champ. “Daddy,” he said, “I thought you said there was NOTHING in Kansas City. Why would a railroad go through there?” Perceptive, that boy.*
Looking across at my wife, my brow furrowed as I saw her suddenly begin to claim route after route in a rapid succession of turns.
“Daddy,” asked my daughter, “I’ve never seen that much white around your eyes!”
“Sorry, sweetheart,” I said. “Daddy’s just been screwed over by Cornelius Vanderbilt,” I said as I pointed toward my wife. None of them got the reference.
“Captain of industry? New York Central Rail…, you know what? Never mind.”
I looked at my cards. There was still hope. Not only did I have a few moves left to complete all of my routes but I remembered that this was only a game. A game with tiny trains. On a board.
On her next turn, as I was relishing the sweet taste of accomplishment at the thought of finally connecting Nashville to St. Louis, my daughter metaphorically punched me in the gut. Placing two cards down she reached across the board and neatly positioned two locomotives between those cities. Hey, she didn’t know. She was just doing what made sense for her hand.
“WHAT!?” I blurted out. “Uh, um, you sure you want to do that? I mean nobody goes to St. Louis anymore!” “But Daddy, they’ve got that pretty arch and anyway it’s my only move left and then the game is over.”
My wife, realizing what had happened, stepped in and tried to persuade our little girl to make a different move.
I had to think fast.
“Sweetie, did you watch the news earlier this week?” I asked.
She shook her head.
“Well, it was very sad…” I proceeded to tell her about the history of train derailments, demonstrating with her Nashville line by toppling her plastic engines off the board.
Unfortunately, she continued the story by insisting that a crane had come in to re-position the trains. Where did she get that from? It’s like the time I played Battleship with my son and he figured out I had been moving my battleship. “What, son?” I asked. “My ship was under attack. I would have been derelict as caption not to move her.”
And with that it was game over.
Next time we’re playing Trivial Pursuit.