Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Story Time (And a Moral)

Or Amoral?

Anyway, it's past my bedtime, but this idea is stuck in my head, and I'm afraid if I don't write it now, I'll lose it.

Besides, I'm my own boss now, so I can sleep in a little if I want to. But I won't.

So anyway, back during high school or shortly thereafter, I had Eric over at my house. Full of teenage bravado (as always), I challenged Eric to a Tetris match, and tauntingly claimed that I would kick his butt. Eric, being teenaged at the time also, appropriately disagreed, claiming that it would be, in fact, he who would do the kicking (but not receiving...you see?).

Eric and I spent a minute or two offering one another the first game, and in the end I prevailed. Eric would play first, classic NES Tetris, highest score wins.

As the highest score would win, I fully expected Eric to start his play on a level other than zero. I was very surprised when he did not. If you've ever played (or heaven forbid, watched someone play) Tetris at levels 0-4 or so, you know that paint dries faster in a steamy bathroom than the blocks move at those levels.

So I settled in for a long haul, fearing that Eric would use these levels for warmup for the faster levels, and finish me off in a blaze of button pressing.

It took a while, with completed levels passing now and then, but finally, the blocks began to stack up on Eric. To my surprise, his game ended about level 7.

The pressure was really on now, because while I knew that I could play well beyond the level 7 it took to win our little competition, one bad game would make me look really stupid (not that it mattered, remember? I'm a teenager here).

As we were judging by points, I made sure to start on level 9. As I always did. Level 9 was my default pace, and unless things went badly, I generally scored up to what it would take to attain level 9 when starting from level 0, or better.

And then I played, and played, and played. Things got tight a couple of times, but I really knew I was doing well when level 9 passed and the game graduated me to 10. And then 11. And then 12. I think my game ended on 14. It was not unheard of for me, but still an outstanding game. I bested Eric's score by well over ten times.

And I felt awful. I couldn't believe my incredible luck at having such a great round, when Eric had probably done so-so compared to his usual. Of course, Eric was a terrific sport, and that just made me feel worse.

And so. Must I contrive a moral here?

Eric never again accepted a Tetris challenge from me, and I did ask more than once. On the other hand, Eric and I have remained friends since, and in spite of the event.

So I guess if there has to be a moral, it's that if you get the chance to really shine, don't hold back. A friendship worth maintaining will weather it, and give both parties the chance to enjoy the other's talents.

For instance, I'll never (in this life) be as good at math as Eric is. I just won't. He knows what two plus seventeen minus the hypotenuse of the number of dimples on a golf ball divided by Fermat's last calculated digit of pi to the logarithm of the angular velocity of a European sparrow measured in parsecs is, and I just don't.

And I don't mind that he knows and I never will.

Because I'll still kick his ass at Tetris.

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