It is new, chic, with those waiters that make dressing messily look cool and sophisticated and it was incredibly noisy so it wasn’t really my fault that I overheard the conversation, everyone was talking at higher decibels to be heard.
I had decided to treat myself to breakfast at the new bakery which had opened near me. The place was jumping with the energy of a new place that hasn't quite got the work flow systems operating smoothly and everyone is trying hard to be cool and sophisticated because really, pulling your hair and having a hissy fit would just mess up that messily cool look. The music was brilliant, the sort of music that made me want to push my porridge aside grab the cute waiter and start jiving! Well, I could dream, because I can’t jive and any attempt in such a closed environment would have brought various occupational health and safety infringement notices!
Back to the porridge and my writing. I was writing a poem and thinking of the next scintillating phrase when I heard;
“I just don’t understand it! People want to play with me and then they just resign”.
Pen poised, scintillating phrase forgotten, I freeze. The art when overhearing a conversation is not to give any sudden movement. A sudden movement alerts the person they are being listened too. Casually I lift my eyes and look in the general direction of the voice. Two ladies, the other side of 40, and I hadn't given myself away! They are totally engrossed in affirming each other the way only ladies do when communicating. Huddling in towards each other, nodding vigorously, “umming and erring”, all the things us guys don’t do which leads us to be accused of not listening or at least disinterested. Neither applied to me, I was listening and very interested
As if her friend was deaf, the first lady wailed once more;
“I don’t get it, they say they want to play and then they resign!”
I try to pick up a wedding ring but her hands were flashing so vigorously and each finger seemed to have its own weight lifting program given the various size rocks that were being carried on her digits I couldn't pick up the wedding ring. Next thought of mine, “resigning” that’s a work related term, perhaps she has some form of kinky work place that has so far escaped sexual discrimination laws.
Said lady then pulls out her phone;
“I mean, look at this, this Ben guy said he wanted to play and I just started and he resigned! I don’t know Ben from Adam perhaps he has played with other people I have played with and how he scores that many points, well he must be cheating!”
I feel myself begin to breathe again and it slowly dawns on me that she has been talking about some virtual game she plays on her phone. She is miffed because Ben, whom I’m sure knows he’s not Adam had initially indicated he would play the game and then metaphorically speaking picked up his bat and ball and went home.
I suddenly felt old! The games I played were with other kids. Admittedly there weren't too many. Most friends I tried to make were scared off by my mother’s interrogations. Those few who did survive the interrogation were sort of friends. I was usually the “friend of last resort”. However, we would negotiate over the rules and the rules could always be changed depending on our developing sense of justice or injustice. We would play our made up game for awhile, then growing bored we would either make up a new game or fight and go home in a huff. We never “resigned”.
I can remember when marbles were all the rage. There were your ordinary cat’s eye marbles you would play with and were prepared to lose, but you always had those few special ones you wanted to keep. The ones you showed your friends with such pride so they knew exactly what to claim as a prize when they won. A couple of times I used the round ball in the top of a roll on deodorant bottle. It was slightly larger than an ordinary marble and white. There were some arguments over the rules of using roll on deodorant tops as against real marbles and I lost!
We told our friends what we thought of them and what they could do with their stupid games and rules. Then the next day, we would apologize or find some way to signal to each other we were still friends and suggest we play another game of marbles.
We learnt to negotiate, we learnt to play by the rules we made and we learnt to make up and remain friends. At least till life drifted us apart. I wonder what we learn from virtual games, from this mornings overheard conversation, I’m guessing we learn we can be anyone, Ben, Adam, whoever we want to be; that we can cheat and get away with it because we play in the privacy of our own space and no-one can really prove it and anyway if it all gets too much we can resign and it won’t matter because there are plenty of other people on line waiting to play.
I wonder if I can buy a bag of marbles, perhaps I could teach my grandson the rules and he can start the next “marble craze”. I can dream! I suspect my grandson is already playing marbles on line with his mates!