The Monopolist in the Mirror


I pretty much despise board games. I think the genre is misspelled — “should be ‘bored’ games,” I’ve often smartassedly protested. Not at all sure from whence this aversion came. But an aversion, nonetheless, it most assuredly is. Bordering on a full-fledged phobia. Don’t tell me the DSM-IV sits conspicuously silent when it comes to Yahtzee-induced hyperventilation. I recognize a diagnosable malady when I feel one. 

So it was with considerable trepidation that I bellied up to the Monopoly board on our living room carpet last night, ill-advisedly consenting to a competition with my wife and my 11 year-old. Our Little League season had just come to a sudden end, my team losing in the championship game two days ago. So the after-dinner ruminations of the past several months — noodling over various lineup combinations and scanning spreadsheet data describing our opponents’ tendencies — have ceased to ruminate. (Yes, I realize these ruminations likely are covered by the DSM-IV.) 

My annual, post-playoffs, hazy funk left me vulnerable.  Head cocked to the side, drooling a bit, staring off into the distance. Lingering in this addled state, I numbly heard some faint murmurs about “playing a game” as the dinner table’s chairs were pushed back from the dinner table. I vaguely recall the click of the door that secures the closet bursting with boxes of anxiety-provoking “games.” And someone I think asked me if I wanted “the shoe or something else” as my game piece. My head swam a bit as I distractedly shouted from the kitchen, “I’ll take the guy with the top hat!” 

Everyone knows that there is no gamepiece guy with the top hat. Everyone except me, that is. That guy is the iconic, Robber Baron logo who graces the box cover. You can be a schnauzer or you can be a wheelbarrow. But evidently you can’t be the mustachioed industrialist who presumably is or was a constant presence in the local society pages. My wife and son, of course, knew this critical piece of information that I did not. And I have no doubt that, sitting crisscross applesauce in the other room from me, the two shared a knowing, conspiratorial look. If you walk into a room not knowing who the mark is, welp, you, sir, just might be the mark. 

The game did not go well for me. 

We played at an accelerated pace, due to an impending  and agreed upon bedtime. I had little time to ponder my moves before making them. And I exacerbated my poor decisions by going on a property and utility buying rampage. I also deliberately shouted “Yes!” with each roll of the die, knowing this distracting tactic was likely a breach of die-rolling etiquette. An attempt, in retrospect wholly unsuccessful, to mask my general ignorance and bitter disappointment with the piddling $6 “rent” promised by my just-purchased property. I enthusiastically shelled out $50, over and over again, to spring myself from Jail. Sporting a sweaty-faced maniacal grin, probably exactly as a genuine convict would do if given the opportunity to purchase his freedom for $50. 

If I was going to go down, I was going to do it loudly, with style, and following a game strategy so preposterous and wrong-headed that my adversaries would be confused. A little intimidated. Maybe a touch frightened. And with any luck, they would never invite me to join them again. I hope they learned their lesson. 

Thanks for reading. 

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