So I'm on vacation in Florida and I'm in the pool and I hear some ladies talking about their mahjongg games.
"I'm not playing on Thursday any more," says one. "We started playing with an aggressive New Yorker and she started telling everyone what to do, so I'm out."
"Our game used to be so pleasant," said another. "Until Doris moved and Miriam started playing. She's so slow! She's on probation with me. I'm under no obligation to play with her."
"I don't know what to do," said a third. "A lady I've been playing with for years is developing dementia. It's so sad, but it's ruining our game."
It seems that change is in the air. The new card has been out a month and a lot of shifting is going on. Snowbirds are heading back north, vacationers to their summer hideaways. New players are moving in, old players are givng up the game. A long-time player I know told me, "I don't play any more. I just got tired of bitchy women."
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus tells us that the only constant is change. Managing change is crucial when playing mahjongg, because mahjongg is full of surprises. How do you react when you need a pair of 9 dots and Bessie puts out three of them? Do you hang your head and break up your hand, or do you immediately scan the card for another option? When you are set and you pick a tile you know someone needs for mahjongg, do you take a chance and throw it, or moan "oh, no" and telegraph that you've picked a hot tile and you aren't taking a risk? Can you accept the inevitable when all your tiles are out and there is one pick left or do you just have to call that flower and expose it with a joker even though you have no chance at winning? Do you let that bitchy, aggressive New Yorker get under your skin, or do you keep your cool and play to win?
A good player will know how to look ahead and anticipate changes, whether it means changing a hand or changing the game she plays in. This means having a plan B, or even a plan C. As play continues, options narrow, and the moment comes when the outcome is clear. The hand is won or lost, the game breaks up or the group dynamic alters in a way that is acceptable to all.
When I get home there will be some changes. Some of our players are away all summer. Some are away on weekends, some on alternate weekends. Some play irregularly and will need some refreshing. Some new people are available that we haven't really played with before. The process of getting a game together is almost as interesting and exciting as the game itself.
Ta-ta and happy mahj!