On the smart spectrum, I’d confidently claim to be closer to the top than the bottom. Um, you done laughing? Good, now hear me out. In second grade I was reading at a third grade level but the teacher claimed it was too much bother to do a lesson for just one student. Her answer was to reteach me second grade reading. Furious with the school district, my parents enrolled me at a prep in the burbs. The next year, my mother decided I’d academically excel elsewhere. During my initial visit to what would become my final resting spot, the teacher gave the class a math test. Even though I never sat through any of the lessons, I aced that sucker. Of course, once I settled into the program, my gold star became rather rusty and tarnished. By my junior year of high school, I had four SAT tutors and a coach to help with my college applications. Even still, Wellesley didn’t want me (cough, whores). Meanwhile, many of my classmates never broke the spine of an SAT study guide and still easily landed at schools like Yale and Princeton and Harvard. So while I’m smart, there are clearly much smarter people out there.
I lurv intelligence. Can lap it up like a drippy ice cream sundae. Not the geeky pocket protector smartness but a raw brilliance. A gentle if not shy mastery of complicated topics most people dismiss as confusing or ambiguous. I might even go so far as to brazenly admit I’m turned on by smarties. Crawling into Alaska’s front seat and shifting an issue of Discover out of the way made my heart skip a beat. Listening to Ex explain the implications of the bond market made my knees weak. Yup, that was some of the best foreplay this woman’s ever experienced. An etched vase filled with fragrant flowers? Whatever. Having a man bury his head between my legs for hours? Feh. Listening to a guy talk about combustible fissions in matter*? Yeah, my down there tingles.
A few days ago, a coworker sent a link to a conundrum of sorts. It was kinda like a math problem with cartoon characters. Most of the instructions were in Japanese but there was a small sidebar with an English translation of the rules. The goal was to transport eight people from one side of a river to the other. But there were guidelines. Like who could be in someone else’s company and how many people could fit on the raft. I love this kind of shit. Eat. It. Up. I’m the one who religiously fetches the most recent offering from Games Magazine and I’m also the one who thought the LSAT problem solving section was more fun than a night of drunken dancing at a neighborhood bar. Gimme a puzzle and I’m a happy camper.
I opened the game and set out on my adventure.
Click – load mom on raft. Click – load daughter on raft. Click – send boat to other side. Loud explosion boomed from my speakers, the noise indicating I had broken a rule.
I muttered a quick woops within the trappings of a nervous giggle. Then I resumed the game.
Click – load dad on raft. Click – load prisoner on raft. Click – send boat to other side. Loud explosion again boomed from my speakers.
I looked away from the game to reread the rules. This time my lips mouthed the words as my eyes passed over them. It was textbook remedial. Then I noticed something I had missed the first read through - a claim that Japanese IT employers use this game as an IQ test. On average, it is completed within fifteen minutes. I glanced at the clock in the lower corner of my monitor to note the time and hastily got back to the game.
Click – load prisoner on raft. Click – load policeman on raft. Click – send boat to other side. No explosion. I exhaled and then quickly checked how much time I had left.
An hour later I had managed to get four of the eight people across. Yeah, an hour. In my defense, I alternated the game with work, fixing a spreadsheet one second and moving a cartoon character the next. As I stared at the monitor, I started to feel really stupid. Like the kind of stupid one associates with kids who ride the short bus. I nervously chewed on the end of my pen. My armpits became moist with perspiration. My fingers cautiously hovered over the keyboard as I wavered about my next move.
“What’re you doing?” another coworker asked when she passed my desk, pausing long enough to fetch a Twizzler from the candy dish.
“Realizing I’m unemployable in Japan,” I said, my confession followed by a loud boom from the speakers.
“Huh?” she asked.
I let out a flustered sigh and closed the game altogether. Humbled and drained, I took a sip of water and returned all attention to the piles on my desk. I had a presentation to finish and some quotes to run before calling it a day. Plus, my ego couldn’t handle any more anime bashing.
After work, I stopped at Wholefoods and then went home. I unpacked my purchases, slipped into some lycra and got on my treadmill. An hour later, dripping and panting, I opened my laptop, eyed the email with the game and decided to give it one more go. Ten minutes and a ridiculous number of loud explosions later, I had everyone on the other side. I yelped with excitement. I threw my arms up in the air like a champion boxer after knocking out his opponent. I did the chicken dance across my living room while singing Mr. Roboto. I finally had my smarts back.
And tomorrow I’m posting my resume on Jobs in Japan.
* Yeah, I have no idea if that even makes sense. But I’m figuring you, like me, will be impressed and ignorant enough to let it slide.
** Oh, and here is the game. Instructions are on the bottom. If I learned but one thing from years of conducting meetings with handouts, it is to wait until the end to distribute the distraction. Enjoy, kiddies!