Backgammon attracts a lot of odd people. And remember, I say that as someone who regularly attends “Gencon”:http://www.polytropos.org/archives/2003/07/sundry_gencon_s.html. A case in point: yesterday “Steve”:http://www.astoundingspacethrills.com/ and I were playing over at “the Grounds”:http://www.commongroundsarlington.com/ when a middle-aged, slightly disheveled guy walked right up to our table. His eyes bugged out slightly, and he wore a pair of really big headphones around his neck.
“That’s a big board,” he said.
I avoided eye contact, knowing that Steve, who is far more polite than me, would shoulder the burden of conversation. “Um, yeah,” he replied.
“Where did you get it?”
“It was a Christmas present.”
“I used to have a round board. It was round. A circle. Round. But a guy borrowed it and I never saw it again.” He paused very briefly. “Do you guys play for money?”
“No,” said Steve, “We just play for fun. I get too stressed out when I play for money.”
“Ah, they don’t let you play for money here,” said the guy. “Well, I’d still like to play. We should play some time.”
“Yeah . . .” said Steve.
“I put up a sign on the bulletin board but they took it down.”
“Well, there’s a lot of people around here who play.”
The guy nodded. “That’s good. I’d like to play. I’m the greatest backgammon player in the world.” I still don’t know if he was serious — his demeanor was just off enough that he could have been simply nuts, but you couldn’t be sure.
“Really?” said Steve.
“The only one better than me is Jesus Christ.”
“Does he play backgammon?”
“He’s the one who brought it to earth.”
Then, without further comment, the guy stalked out. A few minutes later he came back and introduced himself by name. He seemed disappointed that we were still playing each other. “I’d still like to play some time,” he said. “It’s OK if it’s not for money, if they don’t allow that here. I mean, I _do_ play for money, but we can just play for fun if you, you know, don’t want to play. For money.” Then he stalked out again.
The thing is, if he hadn’t said the thing about being the best backgammon player in the world, I would’ve been perfectly happy never to see him again. But now I _want_ to play him, if only to put him in his place — or learn a thing or two if he turns out to be some sort of freaky backgammon genius. Either way, I’ve got to _know_. You can be sure I’ll let you know if he ever turns up again.