Saturday, June 21, 2008

Cake or Pie?

My guess is the roots of the game, if you can call it that, trace back to an icebreaker offered at conventions for multilevel marketers, one of those silly get-to-know-me exercises where strangers bond through shenanigans congealing into camaraderie via collective humiliation.

I don't know the name of the game, I'm calling it Cake or Pie, and why a family who clearly knew each other quite well insisted on playing it inside our ears for the entire duration of a flight from Minneapolis to Seattle is a question I've filed between "Head cheese?" and "Why did he get re-elected?"

It goes like this. You propose a choice between two somewhat similar options and your partner offers his or her preference by choosing one of the two, presumably revealing a little of him-or-her-self in the process.

"Cake or pie?"

"And then what?" you might ask, but there is no "and then what" other than taking turns doing this until... oh, I don't know... I guess until you tire of it.

"Custard or pudding?"
"Coke or Pepsi?"
"Pizza or pasta?"
"Paper or plastic?"
"Hari kari or jumping?"

We reached the jetway four hours later.

The Cake or Pie? family stood next to us at baggage claim, but this didn't bother us particularly, because we were minutes away from escaping them for perpetuity.

Or so we thought...

We hadn't considered the possibility of another twenty minutes of Cake or Pie? as they sat immediately behind us on the rental car shuttle (which, of course, they did). Can people sharing the same domicile and DNA ever get enough of this game? At this point the situation had passed from annoying to incomprehensibly comic, and we knew that soon, we'd be on our way never to see these folks again.

Or so we thought...

Lunch. The hostess sat us right next to the Cake or Pie? family. It doesn't sound terribly surprising or remarkable put that way, but even they seemed a little unnerved when we arrived, and stalking probably seemed the most reasonable explanation to them.

Fate. Every now and then when you become too much a believer in Chance, Fate gets sufficiently rankled and decides it's time to grab you by the shoulders and slap you up and down--just to show you who's the boss--and no matter how hard you try to credit Chance, you're doomed to a solar system of unsettling questions perpetually orbiting.

What were THEY doing for the past TWO HOURS? Why did they eat lunch SO LATE? Why did we wind up at THAT table given all the empty tables available in the section? There's the question of why THAT section? Why THAT restaurant in such an obscure location in Seattle given the thousands of possibilities?

Had I consciously plotted a circuitous escape path from Sea-Tac around the city, a plan designed with the singular purpose of escaping these people, I would have taken the same route we took...

My old apartment in Renton. The grave of Jimi Hendrix. The gun shop that became home to a Darwin Award. The winding timber-lined streets behind Factoria. Downtown Bellevue. A cruise along the lake through Kirkland before rolling over the 520 bridge. Lake Union. And finally, after all that, the little house doubling as a Thai restaurant on Roy Street.


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