Monday, October 18, 2010

Pool and Cheating

I realize I’ve failed in introducing my co-workers through my blog entries. Partially, this is because I won’t give them access to the blog; partially, this is because you can just go to the website ( and read all about them.

But it is important for this story to know that one of my co-workers, Marvin, went to MIT. Because I approve of stereotypes and he’s real nerdy. Last night, I played pool with him and a few other co-workers. I couldn’t help myself but laugh as he tried to measure exact angles for the ricochets and everything. He took it so seriously! I just drank my Waragi and laughed as he crouched at table-height to inspect the layout of the land, despite playing on an uneven table with a cue ball half the size of a normal one, with no chalk and a pool stick half the length of a normal one to account for the walls being awkwardly close to the table.

I am happy to report that street smarts, not MIT smarts won out as he lost to one of the Rwandans on our staff.

And next, buzzed Eli was up.

I started off the game strong: my break (losers break?) did not even hit the triangle of balls. I quickly covered up this mistake by claiming that I thought we were shooting for the break, (If we were, I would have lost this too, as my ball came all the way back and hit the far wall…) and they let me try again. It was another five shots before I got a ball – the wrong one – in a pocket. And probably another five before I got one of my own. Near the end of the game actually, I think all but one of my balls were still on the table, and only one of my opponents’.

Just like my mother playing pong though, I was not worried. Because I knew that there was always that chance that the other team would knock over a cup and lose the game by default; or, in this case, that my opponent would scratch on the 8-ball. Despite most of the rules for pool being different in Rwanda (if you knock your opponent’s ball first, your opponent gets two shots in a row; there are no table scratches; etc. etc.) … you still lose if you scratch on the 8-ball.

Eli wins. Take THAT Marvin.

Eli feels the need to celebrate her win and rub it into the exacting-MIT Marvin by absolutely insisting that they stay for another game, despite it being very past her bed time (about 9pm) on a work night.

The next game didn’t go too much better. I might have gotten a few more balls into the pockets, but more by luck than by skill. The only better part was that I was starting to understand the rules so my opponent had fewer opportunities to have rounds of 5 shots in a row. But the landscape near the end looked pretty much the same as the game before: dismal for me. And then…I kid you not…my opponent scratched on the 8-ball! (Different opponent.)

Eli wins again!
I quickly checked my outfit…no exposed kneecaps and not too much cleavage…I can’t even credit these chance wins on my…skill.

At this point, I was making history at the bar. The longest winning streak is 4 games…and I’m not sure a girl has ever won a game. I’m being loud enough about the fact that I’ve won two games in a row and quiet enough about the fact that they were both by default that people in the bar are starting to think that this muzungu girl is a real pool player. Hustler. (Seriously hustling though, as the loser has to pay for the game.)

And finally, Marvin, who has essentially taken on the role of boring/responsible older brother (I don’t have one of these in real life, so I can only assume that’s how one would act), gathers me and tells me it’s time to go home. At the time I’m mad…but this morning and all day at work…I’m madder that he didn’t make me come home earlier.

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