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Be Good-at-Options

By Carissa Tobin

MON JAN 27, 2020

“Want to play something else?” New Friend asked.

We decided to play gin, though I wasn’t quite clear on the rules. Later, I realized it was just like Mah Jong. You can make runs OR threes/fours-of-a-kind. But how to organize my cards? Put all of the twos together or put all of the hearts together? I had a two of hearts, a three of hearts, and a two of spades and a four of spades. What should I be going for? 

For those of you who love the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator like me, you will recognize that a skill that would come in handy in this unscripted situation is Perceiving, or being a “P.” They go with the flow and think well on their feet. Spontaneity is their game.

And, if you know me well, you will also know I am definitely NOT a P. I am, what they call, a Judging type. While they say this doesn’t mean judgmental, it’s a rather unfortunate name. It means you’re organized and conscientious and follow through on things. A little boring, perhaps, but remember, no judgment, plus I almost always know where my keys are.

On the recent weekend in question, Axel and I found ourselves at a wedding with three hours to kill between the ceremony and the reception. The wedding couple said that people could head to the reception location early to hang out. 

It was at a mansion! So, yes, of course, we decided it was a great place to kill some time. 

After being stunned by the framed photos of our friends casually displayed on the mantel above the fireplace (were they moving IN to the mansion!?), we settled in comfortable – and yet supportive! – chairs right in front of the the oranges and blues of the fire. We had befriended an out-of-town couple – another groomsmen with Axel and the groomsman’s wife – and they settled onto the chaise lounge across from us. We devoured packages of yogurt-covered raisins and Goldfish from the basket near the fireplace meant for hangry children.

“Oh!” I popped out of my seat. “I brought some cards! They’re in the car!”

If this scared the couple off, they had time to make themselves scarce before I returned – and they did not.

We started in on a game of Hearts, muddling through the rules together. But halfway into the second game, the two guys were called off for photos with the wedding party.

“Should we keep playing?” my new card friend asked. 

“We could just play their hands too,” I suggested.

Sadly for Axel, whose hand I played, he lost, bringing in the Queen of Spades but not all of the hearts to shoot the moon.

This was when we switched to a two-person game of gin. 

It took many rounds of cards before I finally flipped over the top card on the discard pile – a sassy move I’d learned from my new card friend – and said, “Gin!” I was worried she would quit out of winner’s guilt/boredom, but to her credit, she just kept saying things like, “it’s the luck of the cards… your deal this time!” and we continued on until the three hours were up. Don’t say I don’t know how to party.

In the chatter that comes with rounds of a card game, I told my new card friend that the following morning I would be flying alone with Little L to California. My biggest concern was the bag situation. I had packed virtually no clothes of my own, so I could fit Little L’s diaper bag inside of my own travel backpack. That way, when we got on the flight I could unpack her gray backpack, place it under our seats, and repack my almost-empty backpack in the overhead compartment. I’d never have to walk with more than one bag through the airport and I’d still have a separate sack for our snacks and Little L’s entertainment at the ready.

Plus I’d never have to debate over what to where because I only had three choices for our ten-day trip.

But what about getting off the plane, I asked my new friend, also the mother of a toddler. “Should I try to stuff her backpack back in mine? Or should I just wear it out like a front-pack to save time?” 

“I think you’ll do just fine,” she told me after reflecting a second. “I think you’ll figure it out in the moment. Maybe another passenger will see that you need some help and pass you your bag so you can load it up.”

That’s when it hit me. “Just like playing gin!” 

I think it was more than just good luck that kept her winning streak going for so long.

The California trip provided a few opportunities for playing at the gin of life. After a few days, we realized we needed a rental car in order to maximize seeing family. A two of clubs – three of a kind! We extended the dates on the car Axel had used to come meet us after his initial work trip. Then, a request to visit extended relatives required the car a couple days longer – a four of hearts! We were nearing a run. Then, due to rain and rockslides, we cancelled the day trip. A five of hearts.

Being flexible, while a skill that is required on a daily basis as a teacher – there could be a fire drill or an assembly or a coworker might be sick without a sub and you have to cover their class – is not something that I excel at in my personal life. But this card campaign has reminded me of the value in it. Plus, I get to observe Axel dashing to the bus at the last minute and taking it in stride when I make us late to a surprise party. Axel might need to search for his keys for a few minutes most mornings, but if you tell him you need to reschedule brunch on Saturday, his heart rate doesn’t rise at the mere thought of unachieved plans.

So what happened on that flight with just me and Little L? She didn’t throw cups at anyone’s head, and while she wasn’t able to sleep because “Wittew Ew keep fawing off seat! My pants swipping off seat!” she entertained herself for quite awhile using a MagnaDoodle and eating Puffins cereal. Plus, I accepted that a nap wasn’t happening and let us both off the hook. Instead, she dozed off later in the car after my brother-in-law picked us up.

As we were getting off the flight, I stood there looking longingly at my bag across the aisle. I had just decided I was going to have to carry the bags separately when as luck has it, I drew a wild card.

“Can I hand you your bag?” a woman behind me asked, smiling.

I pointed to it and she hefted it my way. After our seat mate exited, I fiddled with the gray backpack until it was enclosed in the black one and I pulled it on my back. Little L and I made our way off the flight to recoup her stroller.

Seven of hearts. A straight? Three of a kind? Full house? Flush? Uno?

Who knows. But flip that top card over. We won the game – this time.