Games My Brain Plays
The French Quarter Festival and the NCTM Annual Meeting took place concurrently in New Orleans last week. So following five days of spectacular conversations and presentations at the conference, I headed to the festival for stage after stage of live music.
I sat on the lawn in Woldenberg Park, and the woman next to me was movin’ and groovin’ to the sounds of The Dixie Cups. I introduced myself, and she replied, “Hi, I’m Rhonda.” And the first thought that went through my head was…
Hard-on is an anagram of Rhonda.
What the hell’s the matter with me?
If you’re looking for a silver lining here — and believe me, I am — it’s that there are no other one-word anagrams of Rhonda. So at least I didn’t ignore a more socially appropriate anagram and jump straight into the blue.
But you have to wonder why that happened at all, instead of just accepting her name at face value and politely, automatically responding, “Nice to meet you.”
My mind has played games for as long as I can remember, often without my consent. The following are a list of some of them:
- Playing License Plate Algebra with the letters and digits on a license plate. For instance, if a Pennsylvania license plate has TFT to the left of the keystone and 567 to the right, and the keystone is then replaced by an equal sign, and some simplifying is done, this reduces to T2F = 567, and I search for order pairs (T, F) that make that equation true.
- Riding in a car, I’ll pick a speck of dirt on the window and pretend that it’s a laser/bomb/WMD. As I ride along, anything that the speck appears to touch while I look out the window is destroyed instantly.
- Sometimes, I’ll try to figure out what I’d do if a normal, daily event turned into a life-threatening situation (like this).
- Eating M&M’s two-by-two, one for each side of my mouth. (See my ruminations about a quest to find The Perfect Pack.)
- Having to step on an equal number of cracks with each foot, when walking on the sidewalk through our neighborhood.
- While playing basketball and other sports, getting fixated on a word — say, precise — and when I’m not dribbling or shooting, I’m finding anagrams of the word in my head, or I’ll start to combine pieces of letters — for instance, a c and an i without its dot could be used to form an a — so now I try to make anagrams of p, r, e, a, s, and e. And sure enough, I’ll stumble onto serape. But that’s not good enough. I’ll then return to precise, combine the r and i to make an n, and now I’ll look for anagrams of p, n, e, c, s, and e. There are none, so I’ll spend the rest of the game in a futile mental search. And two seconds after I convince myself that there are none to be found, the buzzer sounds, and I realize our basketball team has suffered its seventh straight double-digit loss. The defeat wasn’t entirely my fault, but my distractedness surely didn’t help matters, either.
What stupid games does your mind play?