My love organized a pinball tournament. That goes kind of like you might imagine: find a bunch of pinball machines (important! Must have!) and a bunch of pinball players (very important! Absolutely must have!) and then have the players play the games. Then keep track of who won. We held it in the local hipster bar, the one where our home pinball league meets.
It’s a natural place for pinball tournaments because there’s nobody there who has a key to open up a machine and get a stuck ball loose. Nor is there any way to fix it in case any mechanical parts on the complex, 20-year-old machines malfunctions, even if someone knows what to do and has the parts to do it to. It seemed to make more sense when we started out. Oh yeah, it’s right near home, that’s the important thing. Yes, when we got there the roof was leaking and half of the machines were turned off for fear of electrocuting players. But we were able to talk the bar into letting us turn on the machines if we promised not to have anybody die on them.
The tournament ran a little long. We expected the contest to take about four hours and it looks like it’s wrapping up sometime in 2018 instead. This happens. We had expected about fifteen people to show up, and instead everybody in Michigan who has ever played pinball even one time participated. But running long isn’t a serious problem. Punchy exhaustion makes for much funnier play anyway. Nobody got electrocuted enough to complain.
But the tournament’s got me particularly exhausted. I took the responsibility of writing out the slips that said which two players were going to play which one machine. By hand. In actual handwriting. This is more handwriting than I’ve done since 2002, cumulative. I stopped handwriting for a good reason: nobody in the world can read it, even when I do my neatest, most careful block-letter writing. I mean careful for me. My handwriting starts out majestically neat, printer-sharp characters with ruler-straight lines and graceful curves. But it degrades, naturally. By about four characters in I’m lucky if a vertical and a horizontal stroke for the same letter appear in the same word, or at all. Occasionally there’s little squiggles that aren’t any figure that has ever appeared in any human symbolic representation. I tell people who ask that this is the well-known Greek letter “ksee” and mathematicians use it all the time. (This part is not a joke. Mathematicians really do have some made-up Greek letters we use.)
And it doesn’t help that we all stopped reading hand-written stuff in 2004 except for Christmas cards and checks from parents. Even if I wrote legibly nobody could read it anyway, from want of practice. I realize this challenges conventional definitions of “legible” but I’m too tired to write out why I’m right so just take it as given.
Also I tend to write small. They’ve been trying to break me of that habit since middle school, when I put a 150-word short-essay answer on a single line of ruled paper and the teacher marked it down because I went on for 180 words. That doesn’t affect my neatness any. But it makes it frustrating when I’m writing to be ready by people who didn’t bring their Scanning Tunneling Electron Microscopes with them to the pinball tournament. I have to make myself write larger, such as by using pens with irritatingly fat line widths. Each letter gets to be, like, five times as hard to write. Filling out a card saying two people with long names were playing “Tales of the Arabian Nights” involves as much exercise as jogging for twenty minutes, and all that strain went into my wrists.
So I figure to finish the year by spreading my resting my palms on a cushion of feathers floating on styrofoam peanuts in a pan resting atop a dense fluid, the kind they put laser interferometers on. I may take my wrists off altogether until they’re feeling quite right again.
I didn’t win in the tournament, or even manage to place in the top three-quarters of the group. Don’t cry for me; I was only participating for the fun of it. And it was fun. I got this little iPod app to draw the names and games for this kind of tournament play and it’s even more fun if you have more names entered in there. And I got my reward anyway. I was able to make people entering the hipster bar where I entered worry that they had to pay a cover charge. If my love runs a tournament again I’ll collect old CDs from my friends and set it up as the merch table. Mostly, though, handwriting: I’m glad we’re smarter than that anymore. Next tournament I’m getting rubber stamps made for each player and game. Stamping things doesn’t strain the wrist nearly the same way, right?