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Friday, September 2, 2011

Games: Planet Puzzle League

A medium time ago I lived in San Diego and worked for one of those places that make big posters and provide computers and copiers to people that don't have them or don't know how to use the ones they have. I didn't have a car at the time so I had to ride the trolley to work.

The trolley is a big red above ground bus on railroad tracks that shuttles poor people from places they can't afford to places they'd rather not be. Its route's are assigned colors, The blue line takes you from Old San Diego to Mexico. The orange line takes you from Petco Park to the Gillespie field. The green line takes you from Old San Diego to Santee. Most locals don't ride the trolley because it only stops at places we work hard to avoid.

My workplace was a block away from a stop on the green line called Hazard Center. I lived about five stops up the green line. So the trolley became my main mode of transportation to work. I had to get up pretty early to catch a ride that wouldn't make me late. I would usually get there about five minutes before the trolley at the same time as three other poor people.

One guy wore a suit with the name tag of one of those clothing stores that seemed to stock anything someone found on the street, and the isles looked like people would try shirts on and thrown them on the floor if they didn't like it. A girl wore the outfit from one of those places that serve hotdogs with no buns, instead they shove a stick up its butt. And one guy wore a chefs outfit with the name of one of those chain restaurants that serve almost passable imitations of Mexican food.

I had enough time between stops to get a few founds of Tetris Attack or Planet Puzzle League or Panel de Pon or whatever else you want to call it for the Nintendo DS. After about a month of Daily Play mode I began to feel pretty good about where I was with my skill. I had a good rhythm, I didn't get flustered when the garbage blocks started to pile, and was regularly pulling of five and six combos. Every once in a while when I looked up I saw people steeling peeks at me. I just assumed I was startling them because I tended to get vocal when I was having a band round.

One day I hopped on the trolley and sat down in the wheelchair access double wide because my legs like to breathe. I pulled the DS out of my purple apron and to my surprise the chef began waving his DS at me from a seat across the train. I gave him a respectful head nod and looked back down then did a double take when I saw his name pop up on my wifi local. I knew it was his name because it was written all over his back pack in old english style lettering.

Turns out he wanted to to do an audit of my skill. I looked up at him and said, "Really?" I was trying to warn the poor guy, he had no idea that this is what I do. I play games and he mistakenly assumed I was in it for funzies. He responded with a shoulder shrug, which let me know that he needed the lesson I was about to teach him. I never found out which game he wanted to challenge me in because I only carried Planet Puzzle League, and it supported online play with one card so that's what we played.

It took him about two stops to beat me. He made a jab at me with baby chains then would make a horizontal clear with a gap above the middle block. Before I knew what was going on he would drop one in the middle and I would be in the weeds until he put me out of my misery. After the match he smiled and said, "Something something payoso." I assumed he was telling me good game but I'm not sure because I can't speak Mexican. I tried to congratulate him on his crap win but it turned out he didn't speak American.

He mercilessly beat me every morning for the next three months. By this time the other poor people we share the train with had joined in and chosen sides. The department store guy went to camp chef and would sit over his shoulder commenting whenever the chef would complete a big chain which he did often. The bun less hot dog girl sat over my shoulder and messed up my focus by making dumb suggestions like clearing horizontally or bunching same color blocks on the same side.

By the time the green line got close to our destination the car would be packed and we would get pretty rowdy during a close match bot nobody seemed to mind. The most anybody would do would be to walk up and ask department store guy or hot dog girl what was going on and they would give them a brief synopsis of my fail. Every once in a while after a close loss the commuters would all go "Ohhhh!" and give me shit even though they couldn't do any better against this freak bot.

I got fired about five months after I got the gig at the copy place for loading WOW on one of the work PC's so I could do dailies. My record against the chef ended at a respectable 52-0 considering he didn't know what he was doing. I still look for his tag on live every once in a while but not for revenge or anything, well a little, but its mostly because looking back the dream of beating him made me forget that I was going somewhere I didn't want to be surrounded by people I didn't know. And by the end I learned a lot about the people that I shared the trolley with without even having what some people would define as a real conversation. We plotted and commiserated and celebrated together by playing a silly little game for kids on the way to work, and that's gotta be worth something.

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