Some of us are genetically ill-equipped to play games.
I'm talking about the board games that families typically play with each other - especially after the holidays - because they received several for Christmas.I'm also talking about me.
For reasons that I can't explain, games simply escape me. My psychological makeup lacks the gene designed to develop game dexterity.
In fact, the ideal way to cause my brain to freeze up is to break out a set of rules for a board game and read them to me.
This same gene may also be related to the one that teaches fathers how to put together various contraptions for birthdays or Christmas. Long ago I relinquished that right to Marti, who fortunately is a genius at it.
She is also an excellent and creative game-player, undoubtedly inherited from her family - all of whom are equally proficient. Not only are they very good, but they love to play.
So I used to struggle through it at family gatherings. After the rules were read, someone would say, "Any questions?"
I was so confused that I didn't even know what questions to ask, so I would remain silent.
Then as the game moved into high gear, it would become suddenly evident that I had no idea what was happening.
Everything would stop, and as I slowly looked up I would see every face focused on me. It was either my turn and I had failed to act, or I had just botched something badly.
The worst had happened - the game had slowed down.
Someone would then take it upon himself to bring me around by doing a painfully slow rehash of the rules.
"Now, do you understand?"
I would nod unconvincingly. People around the table would look at each other with undisguised terror. They all knew that it would only be another minute or two until I botched something even worse than before.
They were right.
So I gave up playing games in public. That is, I reserve my game-playing for my immediate family, who are less threatening and remarkably patient with me - most of the time.
The other night when I was playing a hot game of Pitwith my family, my son, David, was shuffling and dealing the cards. When he reached my place, he burned the cards across the table with such electrifying speed that every card hit the floor. That meant that it took me twice as long as everyone else to arrange my hand.
David was delighted.
Amazingly enough, there are some exceptions. I love to play Trivial Pursuit. If my mind is peculiarly inept at discerning rules, it is unusually adept at storing trivia.
I could play Trivial Pursuit for hours - but it is difficult to get people to play with me. Maybe it is because I am so excited to have a game that I can play that I become obnoxious.
There are two other games that I get excited about - not board games. One is Sardines - a game like Hide and Seek in which the seekers, when they find a hidden person, join him in hiding, finally resulting in a massive pileup in some ridiculously tiny space.
There is something eerie about being the only one left as you race around the house, desperately searching for the others, until you find them piled like sardines on top of one another.
The bigger the house the funnier this game is.
I also enjoy Killer.
Everyone holds hands in a circle after choosing cards, one of which secretly determines the killer. When the lights go out, the designated killer squeezes the others' hands a number of times. They in turn pass on one squeeze less until the recipient of a single squeeze drops in feigned death. The game lasts until someone guesses the killer's identity.
The best part for me is that no one has to stop and explain the rules.