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Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Mahjongg Parable

Once upon a time there was a mah jongg playing family called the Hills; Joanne, an inner-city teacher in her early 50s; Joan, her mother, a retired human resources administrator, and Jane, her daughter, a 28-year-old unemployed Iraq war vet.  They were thrilled to be invited to play in a lower Manhattan community center with some gals they had met at a tournament; Mavis Lehman and Leona Morgan.
  "We play a $20 pie," Mavis said.  A little steeper than the Hills were used to, but it was their chance to play with the big boys, and they accepted the challenge.
"League rules?" Joanne asked.
"League rules!" said Mavis and Leona.

So they trekked downtown on a cold Sunday and took their seats at the table.
"Oh, I forgot to tell you," said Leona.  "We add a zero to the value of the card.  So a 25 cent hand is 2.50.   And if you roll a double and you win it's double.  If it's a wall game we put $1 in the kitty and the next one to win gets it all."  It was a little late to back out now, and it was a $20 pie, so the game started.

The playing was tough.  Mavis won the first game, a self-picked quint hand that paid $8 all.  Then two wall games.  Then Mavis picked mahj on a 25 cent hand, which paid $5 all plus $10 from the kitty.  Then another wall game. Then Leona won one, a 25 cent consecutive run which paid $2.50 from the Hills, $5 from Mavis plus another $5 from the kitty.  The pie looked like this:

Suddenly Mavis got up, put on her coat and said, "It was nice playing with you gals.  I've got to go now."
"What?  You can't do that!  You won almost all our money." said G.I. Jane.
"I'm quitting while I'm ahead," Mavis said.  "There's no rule against it.  Call the League if you don't like it."  Whereupon she scooped up her coin-laden mah jongg purse, put on her chinchilla wrap, got into her little Maserati Quattroporte and drove away.
Leona was shocked, and said.  "My friend, Barbara Goldman, is a trustee at the League.  I'm going to call her and see how to handle this."
"Call the President," said Joan Hill.
"It's a Sunday, but Barbara has the President's ear."
She called her friend and explain the situation, then waited on hold.  After a few minutes Barbara Goldman returned and asked to be put on speakerphone.  The girls gathered around the phone.
"Here's what you do," she said.  Now, the Hills have $1.50 apiece, right?  Each of you must take a dollar and give it to Leona."
"What?  Why should we?  She already won some and has more than she started with, said Jo Hill.
Ms. Goldman paused, then said, "......blah, blah, blah.....we can't let her fail, and you will have the opportunity to win back your money several times over, just give it time. But no more playing ten times the card. And by the way, Leona, we haven't received your contribution yet."

So the four players returned to the table.  The Hills, always law-abiding citizens, did as they were told and gave $1 each to subsidize Leona.  They played a few lackluster games, with the same 50 cents going back and forth between Leona and Joanne, after which the gals called it quits and headed back to Main Street, vowing never to return.  The final division of the pie looked like this:

Happy Mahj for those of you who can still afford to play this Thanksgiving.
We are the 99%.

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