It is safe to say we are living in, as the old Chinese curse/wish puts it, "interesting times." Despite recent expansions of what we all might think possible in the way of social interaction, it's still clear that safety is keeping most of us in some form of lockdown, or at least keeping us from getting out much.
One of the fascinating thing about us humans is our tendency to make a game out of most situations. It's what separates us from the animals. That and the tendency of most societies to secure food, shelter and then start making beer.
Our current dilemma is definitely no different. In fact, I've discovered several interesting new games during this time. Feel free to play them yourselves. If this continues, I anticipate both board and video game versions.
• The "Why Do You Do It Like That?" game – This game requires at least two players (since asking yourself repeatedly why you do something a certain way is either an indication of your interest in self-improvement or deep-seated mental issues you probably need to have checked out. Potentially both.), but three players is actually optimal.
If you have three, you can have teams, because it works best if two of you can gang up on the other one. And then someone can switch sides. Since it's always going to be at least two against one.
Rules of the game are simple: One player, randomly, observes another player doing something and asks, politely (more or less), "Why do you do it like that?" Could be little stuff, like folding towels or rinsing off dishes or breathing. Could be big stuff like ... well, after a few weeks locked in a house with someone, everything is big stuff.
How do we keep score? Volume, typically. And how we do know who won? We don't, because no one ever wins "Why Do You Do It Like That?" Because if someone changes, in a day or two, you'll hate that, too.
There are a couple of other versions for the game, one played while driving (again, another game you never win) and another called "Kitchen Boxout." Because even if your kitchen is the size of an airplane hangar, complete with five refrigerators and six sinks, sooner or later, someone will be parked in front of the one cabinet, drawer, chip bag or whatever is it you have to have.
The winner is whoever indignantly gets to the sink or fridge or drawer or whatever. So, a goal-oriented game. However, this game helps explain why cellmates in prison often do bodily harm to each other. Other, of course, than the fact that doing bodily harm to people might already be prominent in one or both of their toolboxes, anyway.
• The Great Wi-Fi Rodeo – At one point, I thought the race to get access to that great uncharted territory known as the Internet was more of a sprint than anything else. Then I realized sprints imply both an understanding of the rules and a clearly demarcated lane structure. And trying to get technical systems to work is more of a bull ride, if everyone wanted to get on the bull at the same time.
General rules are this: At some point in the day, typically the morning (but any time is good), everyone in the house tries to get on some device that requires Wi-Fi access. First one in, for no apparent reason, wins. Then the rest of the household gets to either complain or wait patiently (sure).
Another version is called "Throwing Yourself on the Mercy of the Court." That's where you get to plead the case that you deserve to be on the Wi-Fi because of the importance of your task. Saying "this is so unfair," or claiming you have "the worst parents ever" doesn't count.
Points for the first person to complain to whomever is responsible for the current Wi-Fi plan that the plan is too limited, the modem isn't powerful enough, whatever. And style points to whomever is responsible for the current Wi-Fi plan for the most colorful, jargon-laden and probably technically impossible and likely untrue reason the current plan is either just fine or someone else's fault.
The beauty of all these is that, by making games of things we allow people to release frustrations and pent-up anger in a healthy way. Because no one ever gets overly upset at a game, right?
And if none of those work, we can either play a quick round of "Who Ate The Last of the Ice Cream?" Or take up dueling. Whichever is safer.
Gary Smith is a recovering journalist living in Rogers.