Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Gulf Games 18: Wednesday

Morning came VERY early on Wednesday, as the first flight in my three-leg journey left Fresno at 5:30 am. Thanks to Dave Zener, I had a ride at 4:10 am... you see, Dave's a grape farmer and already used to being up at that insane hour. (Dave gets his hair cut at Phil's Clip Joint, which is regularly open at 5:30-6:00 am in the morning to accommodate the local farmers - can you tell I live in a semi-rural area?!)

Everything went smooth as silk getting to San Francisco. Once I arrived I found my next departure gate, toodled off to the bakery for a cinnamon roll, and returned just a few minutes before my good friend, Joe Huber, arrived.

Joe lives in Boston (well, outside Boston - he explained exactly where, but pesky details from last week are gone now) but was working in Santa Clara this week. So, we were amazed to discover that we had exactly the same flights to Louisville for Gulf Games - and the folks at the United Customer Service counter were nice enough to book us together for the rest of our flights. (Note: this will be the last nice thing I say about United Customer Service for a while.)

Joe & I played Rosenkonig in the terminal before boarding our flight - Joe's been a longtime fan of this placement game (going back to the original version, Texas), and his enthusiasm is what finally got me interested in buying a copy of the game for myself. What intrigues me is how a game with "perfect" information (all cards are visible) can still move along at such a nice clip. I managed to win this one going away.

Once on the plane, our conversation ranged from the Gathering to game design to stories of our kids to who knows what else. We stopped every once in a while to watch Skrat scenes from Ice Age 2 (which was the inflight movie) - those being the best part of the film. (Note: I'll reference Skrat's eternal quest for an acorn later in this post - watch for it.)

And, of course, we played games. This was Joe's first opportunity to play
Mystery Rummy 4: Al Capone - and he took me to school. (Sigh - I used to be good at this one.) It's a personal favorite of mine and it was nice to see Joe respond to it so well.

We also played Crazy Chicken (more recently released in a stunningly overproduced & overpriced edition as Drive by Simply Fun). At the end of the game, Joe suggested that the optimal way to play the game is to put down singles and/or small groups early - that the game devolves the longer you play. I'm not sure I understand or agree with this - but it did get me thinking. (Joe, if you'd like to explain yourself, the comments section is open to you!)

The last game on our flight to the Windy City was Streetsoccer - which I won 3-1 after the dreaded "bad dice" grabbed hold of Joe & wouldn't let go. (Interesting playing Streetsoccer on two airplane tray tables - every bit of turbulence made the players move around like we were playing Electric Football.)

And then the "fun" began... our flight was a bit late, so we knew we'd have to move fast to get to our next gate. But the flight attendant hadn't read our gate off in her list of connections - so where were we supposed to go? No gate agent met the flight... and then, to our surprise, the Louisville flight wasn't listed on the monitors. We hoofed it down concourse C to Customer Service, where the gentlemen helping out in the line basically asked "Have you looked at the monitors?" Joe stayed there and waited... and waited... and waited... while I ran to a courtesy phone to get a straight answer - but all I got was a busy signal. I commenced running up and down the concourse, looking for gate agents, finally finding one who was able to let me know that we were flying out of F12.

For those of you who've been to Chicago O'Hare, you'll quickly realize that the marathon sprint from Concourse C to Concourse F involves not only great distance but any number of odd turns & twists... as well as trying to get past huge throngs of people. Joe & I - neither one of us in our athletic prime, to say the least - gave it our best shot, but to no avail.

She re-booked my ticket for the 6:30 pm flight... and Joe was put on stand-by. We then spent a fruitless half hour standing in yet another customer service line to try & make sure our baggage would arrive in Louisville if we rented a car. (Which, in the long run, turned out to be more of a hassle than waiting for our flight - but just barely.) Finally tired of the runaround, we adjourned to a Chili's for a meal & some time to relax.

After dinner, of course, it was time for more games! After the earlier success of MR4, I brought out Mystery Rummy 3: Jekyll & Hyde. It's probably the least impressive game of the series, but that didn't stop Joe from winning it.

It was about this point that we found out that our plane was delayed - so out came The Game Of Life Card Game. This is actually a very nice little card game with some fun decisions... so my Scientist spent lots of time doing good & racking up points while Joe's Police Officer had a record 8 children. (I won... Joe actually had negative Time for a chunk of the game.)

More delays - so we played Zwergen Ziehen - a funky tug-of-war card game of garden gnomes & squirrels. (The theme is that they are actually conducting a tug-of-war under the fence with a garden hose.) This is another game Joe had recommended that I've thoroughly enjoyed - and another game where Joe beat me handily.

And finally, we were on the plane. Joe's stand-by ticket came through, and we wedged ourselves into our seats... only to taxi around almost all of the terminals at O'Hare. Really. It was 75 minutes from the point we left the gate until the time we left the ground. (There is a certain level of miserable that occurs when you're stuck in a plane with a lot of other people and the air conditioning is, to say the least, inadequate. I seriously thought about jamming my face up into the tiny air vent above me.)

It was at this moment that I realized that we (Joe & I) were Skrat - and that Louisville was our acorn. Somehow, this was much funnier on Wednesday night in the midst of the horror than it is now - but you understand where I'm coming from, right?!

While we taxied, Joe & I played another game of MR4... picking it up when it looked like we might take off, then returning it to the tray tables when it became obvious we weren't leaving the ground. This game, sadly, was never finished - we probably had one more hand as the score was close (both of us 150+).

Once airborne, the flight to Louisville was easy. The airport shuttle picked us up almost as soon as we had our luggage - so we finally stumbled into the game room at 1 am EST. No more games for us that night - unless you count waking up Doug Cheatham so I could get into the room a game. (Sorry again, Doug!)

All in all, a very long day - I can not express how much of a God-gift it was to have Joe along through all the trials & tribulations.

I'd also like to say "thank you" to United Customer Service - not for the debacle at O'Hare, but for the way they handled it yesterday when I called their customer service line.


Anonymous said...

(Joe, if you'd like to explain yourself, the comments section is open to you!)

I think you've got it. Looking at the translation afterwards, the minimum set to play is 2, rather than 1, which will sometimes force it to be a real game (as the 6/7/8/9s will hide for a while), but doesn't change the basic problem by much.

huzonfirst said...

Sounds like you two played a great group of two-player games. If you had to pick a time for endless delays on a cross-country flight, I'd say that was it!

Anonymous said...

Mark, that sounds like the best use of flying time ever! I've also played Crazy Chicken while flying, introducing it to a random female teenager and playing on the fold-down trays over my sleeping wife. Wait, does that sound a little weird?