I can actually be quite competitive which is problematic for a number of reasons. This list starts with my abject failure to understand and partake in any kind of sport other than croquet, and ends with my tendency to spasm out at crucial moments – a pattern which makes me a less than desirable partner when playing Operation.*
It’s not a huge deal – and I’ve come a long way since I was in primary school. No longer do I cry when I lose at Chinese Checkers – instead I hold back the hot, burning tears as I add your name to the list of people who have bested me. No more do I insist on rehearsal after rehearsal after rehearsal for the Tournament of Minds performance – only to realise on the day that none of us actually read the guidelines. The days of professing I don’t need trivia assistance as I get trapped behind the final door in Encarta ’95′s Mind Maze are over.
No. Now I let my competitive streak out in bursts – namely by secretly racing other pedestrians.
This is rewarding for two reasons. Firstly, because it is secret, noone knows when you lose. Except for yourself – but you can just handle that with a whole lot of negative self talk. The added bonus of you being the only one knowing that the race is happening means that the other person won’t be trying as hard (which could only ever serve to strengthen the validity of a win) and you get to determine what the prize is.
Spoiler: the prize is always getting the the traffic lights first. Sometimes with additional strange sideways glances when you are mysteriously beaming with triumph whilst everyone else is just sad that it’s raining.
Secondly, you get to pick your opponent. Much like the lion on the hunt, the easiest approach is to separate out the slow moving in the pack. Winners (and by winners, I mean likely losers) are generally those laden with shopping, the strutters, and small children. Though children are a wild card in that they sometimes break in to runs. Or gibberish. Sometimes both. Damn their vim and fitness levels. For extra fun, actually pretend you are a lion. Why bother holding on to any vestige of mental health at this point?
Sometimes though, it is good to challenge yourself. Pick a real contender. It is at these moments, when I am levelling off with a woman dressed smartly in a suit and stockings, but who has thought ahead to wear sneakers, that I believe I am not alone in doing this. Our eyes stare, unmoving at the red man, willing him to change. Jaywalking is a disqualifiable offence, and we both need a win. The traffic stops. Time slows. Her eyes flick towards me. I know. She is racing too.
If this were some kind of dramatic short story, I’d leave it there. However, really it always ends in one of three ways – 1) we get to the next stop, and pretend we were never racing 2) I trip over in my uncoordinated enthusiasm or 3) One of us gets to the next stop first, it is red, the other catches up, we silently rage out about losing the lead, and then realise that this isn’t actually the amazing race, there actually isn’t a finish line and we should probably not be twelve years old anyway.
I miss Mind Maze :(
*Themed board game joke. How humerus.
Artist note: we did a unit on ‘perspective’ in Year 7 Art. I never scored higher than 6/10.