Monday, October 24, 2011


Last Monday I played a very, very long game of Mao with Maddy, Lucas, Jacy, and Alise. Mao is a card game, more or less like Uno, complicated by a few unspoken rules which players must learn solely by observation and deduction; by watching others keep the rules, or by figuring out why someone penalized them. At the end of a round (when a player successfully discards her or his last card), the winner gets to make a new (secret) rule, and the game goes on.

For some reason, our game seemed to take a record-breaking amount of time. Players would get down to their last card, and then be unable to play it, winding up with ten or more cards coming into their hand. Frustration was running high. Several times people stood up and slammed the table or muttered "I  %#@* HATE this game!"--and then kept on playing. (They had to complain under their breath because it's against the rules to speak during Mao.) Lucas finally did quit in exasperation, but the rest of us doggedly kept at it (mainly at Maddy's insistence) until someone--anyone!--finally won. The relief in the room was palpable. I don't even remember who played the final card.

I figured that I'd have a hard time convincing anyone to play Mao with me again, and the next time I was driving up (that Friday), I mentioned it to the students in the car. "Yeah, I doubt it," said one. "They're sick of that game. They've been playing it all week!"

Which teaches me, once again, that I don't always understand what it means when someone expresses frustration.

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