Saturday, March 6, 2010

Why I Cheat

I am scrupulously honest in most things.  My job.  My personal life.  My taxes.  On the internet.  When I'm undercharged for a purchase... in all of these dealings I am pretty darned honest.

On the other hand, I'm very happy to cheat at wedding shower games and cruise ship trivia contests.

I woke up this morning thinking about something that happened probably 30 years ago, which may be responsible for this.

I was at someone's bar- or bat-mitzvah.  A friend or a distant relative -- I can't remember.  I'm at the kids/friends table.  There's a DJ spinning records.  Every once in a while, he would have all the kids get up and take part in some silly game, for a prize.  Usually a record or something.

He got us up to play one game where he lines up the boys on one side of the dance floor and the girls on the other.  He tells us that when he says "Coke," he wants the boys to drop to one knee and all the girls run over and sit on their opposite's knee.  When he says "7-Up," he wants the reverse to happen.  "OK?  Everyone got it?  Let's practice.  7-Up!"  And all the girls drop to one knee and the guys run over.  "Good," he says, "Let's practice the other one.  7-Up!"  And I drop to one knee and every other girl doesn't -- running over to the other side.  Ha-ha.  It's a trick.  I got it right and every other kid got it wrong.

At the end of the game, he picks up the prize (a 45 of something or other) and walks toward me.  I probably even stick my hand out to get it, because it was very clear to everyone in the room that I won this game.  He walks past me and gives the record to a little old lady who was standing next to me.  Someone's grandma had taken part in the game for a lark, and she gets the record because she's so cute and old.

I am pissed off.

I sit down at my table, still pissed off.  I deserved that prize.  Life is so not fair.

A little while later, it's time for the next contest.  We're all supposed to get up on the dance floor and rock out, or do the craziest "punk" we've ever done, or whatever the hell the silly dance craze was back in 1980.  And all the kids get up on the dance floor and gyrate around like mad, trying to catch the DJ's attention.  I don't.  I am not interested.  The whole damn thing is rigged anyway.

Someone -- probably the Bar Mitzvah boy's mom -- comes over to my table and suggests that I get up and dance.  I don't want to, but I'm young and I do what I'm told.  The damn song is nearly over anyway, but I get up, stand in a corner of the dance floor, and wave my arms in a fairly half-assed manner for about twenty seconds.

The song is over.  The DJ grabs the prize and brings it directly over to me, complimenting me on how I was really rocking out or going crazy or whatever.  I thank him and accept my 45.  ("Celebration."  Kool and the Gang.  It was actually a Top 10 hit at the time.)

I go back to the kids' table and the other kids are now mad at me.  "How'd you win that?"  "You were hardly dancing at all!"  This was, of course, true.

I processed it.  I'm not an idiot, you know.  The DJ gave me the crazy dancing prize, which I didn't deserve, because he hadn't given me the Coke/7-Up game prize, which I did.  This was, according to some bizarre set of grown-up rules, fair.  Except it wasn't fair.  Because by now, he's jerked over some other kid who should have won the crazy dancing prize (and pretty much every kid deserved that one over me) and I wondered if he was just going to have to keep giving prizes to the wrong kid all night, just to make up for giving Grandma the prize he should have given me.

For the longest time after that, I felt guilty every time I played my Kool and the Gang record, because I felt like I hadn't deserved it.  I didn't care that it was making up for some other record that I had deserved -- what mattered was that I had this record which someone else, by all rights, should have had.

I eventually came to terms with the fact that these sort of contests don't matter.  That someone's Grandma got my prize because everyone wants to see a grandma playing a game with the kids, and I got someone else's prize because they figured they owed me one, and giving the prize to the person who actually deserves it is simply not the prime consideration.

Which is why, now, I cheat.  :)

1 comment:

Lori said...

Wow! (I hope I never behave like that when I'm a grown up.) No wonder kids don't trust us!