Pocket Monster

This is becoming a real problem for me.

It’s been an issue for quite some time but the events of yesterday afternoon – after work – have shown me that a critical point is approaching and may well have now been passed…

… I have too much stuff in my pockets.

“Gosh, ‘being trivial yet again Ken?” You may well cry but wait. Have you considered how awful a thing it can be to have too much stuff in your pockets? It’s not the additional weight that makes it so bad, nor is it the bulky ruined lines of your clothes. None of the above. No, it’s the fact that you can never find the single bloody thing that you are looking for – that’s the killer.

Let’s just look at what I have in my pockets: Wallet, phone, keys (house), keys (car) USB thingie, loose coins, iPod with long headphone wire, data storage tape, nifty key-ring which my lovely wife gave me with no keys on it (but with a neat coin shaped piece which you can remove and use to free up your Tesco trolley) lottery tickets (unchecked), old sticking plaster (just threw that out) (yuk) and a street map of Dublin where I patently do not live anymore.

You get the idea.

All this stuff is distributed between my trousers and coat pockets and there is little-or-no pattern to where any given item might be found at any given time. Things are made worse because I have a hole in my coat pocket and keys and things can sometimes slip into the depths of the lining too.

On three separate occasions yesterday, the matinee performance which is my life was delayed while I tried to find something in my pockets. All three were bad but the last time took the biscuit. Here’s what happened:

I was leaving work. I had just returned from a meeting and was making a flying visit to the office. The car park adjoining the office allows you to go in and back out of the barriers if you are prompt – the little tickets have about ten minutes grace on them. So I ran in and ran out again… sort of. You see, I glanced at Twitter while I was in and you know how that can be. By the time I got back to the barrier I was dicing with that ten minute deadline and I knew it.

I found my ticket in my pocket (took a while) drove up to the barrier and stuck my ticket in. “Time Limit Exceeded, Please Return to Paystation.” Drat, I muttered, or words to that effect. I turned to reverse back from the barrier.

But, lo, a woman had appeared behind me in an oversized cow-killer of a vehicle and she was hemming me in. I waved at her to back up a bit so I could reverse away. She eventually went back about five and a half inches and gave me one of those sour ‘There, happy now?” looks. I wasn’t happy. I couldn’t reverse out in five and a half inches and if somebody else arrived behind her we were rightly stuck. So I waved some more at her and she backed up some more whilst sporting a face like thunder.

As I reversed back past her I buzzed down my farside window and said, “Sorry about that, my ticket wouldn’t work.” She responded by remaining silent and scowling at me as if I were a piece of dog crud on her shoe, which rather annoyed me.

“Well,” I said, “I hope you are received more kindly when it happens to you some day.” She scowled some more and I reversed back to a parking spot so that I could go and get my ticket authorised.

I realise this is going on a bit, sorry, it’s therapeutic.

I got out of my car, closed the door, and then noticed that the scowling lady was still at the barrier with another car now behind her. She didn’t seem to be able to get out. I smiled to myself and reached for my barrier ticket.

No barrier ticket.

I started the pocket search which had lately become so familiar. No ticket. I piled all the contents of my pockets on the roof of the car one by one – there was so much stuff – no ticket.

The lady was still at the barrier…

Had I left it in the car? I opened the car door to see, panicking now. I am driving a borrowed car for reasons I’d best not go in to here. The door of this car is higher than my own. As I hauled open the door, the sharpish top corner of it caught my chin and cut me there, I could feel blood welling and trickling down my neck. This snapped my temper.

The lady was still at the barrier…

I took a minute out to stomp around clutching chin and swearing the most potent and fervent swear words in my vocabulary and, when I finally calmed down a bit, I saw there was no ticket in the car either. There could now be no doubt – I had left the ticket in the barrier ticket slot when I reversed away and the reason the lady hadn’t gone through the barrier yet was because she was messing with my ticket.

I walked towards her purposefully to see if she had my ticket. She saw me in her wing mirror striding up and the look of unbridled terror on her face stopped me in my tracks. I couldn’t just go up to her having admonished her a few moments ago, I would scare her and I really didn’t want to do that. As I hesitated, the barrier lifted and she sped away, tyres squealing, into the night. Did she have my ticket with her? I will never know.

Back at the car, most of my rooftop pocket stuff had fallen into a puddle on the ground. I now had no ticket to validate and no way of getting one. In despair, I drove up to the barrier again and pressed the alarm button hoping to convince the person on the other end to please just let me go. I never actually had to say a word, perhaps they could see me on CCTV, wet, distraught and bleeding copiously from my chin. The barrier just went up and let me out.

So, today, I’m clearing out my pockets. I need to be able to find things more quickly or at least to know for sure if I’ve lost them.

I need to lighten up.

Chess X Ray

I have played chess pretty much all of my life.

I learned the moves when I was very young because my older brothers both played. I picked it up off them largely by osmosis. When I was still quite young I joined the junior chess club and when I was again too young for it, I joined the adult chess club. When I moved to London, I used to play in the West London chess club and did quite well at the type of lightning game where you have to make a move every few seconds.

I’m not by any means a brilliant player or anything like that. Perhaps you can gauge a player these days by how they do against a computer. I play the Wii Chess programme at level 3. I win some and I lose some. I draw quite a lot. That’s how I play – not special but I know a bit.

I only ever play against computers and consoles these days and less and less of even that, as time goes on. My failings at chess taunt me now.

I have come to rather fear defeat and so tend to avoid human challenges.

The point of this small post is this: I believe that you can learn a little about yourself by looking at the way you play chess (providing, of course, that you actually play chess – it doesn’t work so good if you don’t know how the pieces move).

Let’s take me as a guinea pig to illustrate the point.

Here’s how I play chess:

I tend to see quite a long way down the line. I can calculate moves and counter-moves in quite a tortuous progression so that sometimes I can put together an attack or a trap which, if it works, can be quite blindingly brilliant to behold.

But wait, this is not an exercise in self-praise, oh no. You see I have a fatal flaw. Fatal. I am always so busy plotting my little machiavellian coups and calculating my materiel exchanges ten moves ahead that, yes, I miss the glaringly obvious. I do this all the time. While I’m trying to figure out how to achieve mate in seven moves, you’ve just taken my bloody Queen off.

And that is how I am in life too. I can sometimes see a thing a little askew or progress a thought a few steps beyond the ordinary and that can look impressive. But, while I’m doing it, I will also be forgetting your name or walking into a lamp post or wondering where the hell I was meant to be going in the first place.

The way I play chess is the way I am in life.

So… how do you play chess?