When life throws you lemons, thank it for the snack

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


As a child of the 1980s, I grew up with a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). For all you whipper-snappers, this was the great-great grandfather of the Nintendo WII. It predates the 3DS by quite a bit, as well. It came out during a time when the only "portable" games were the kind you could draw on paper or the ones made of plastic pieces and/or magnets. Okay, enough attempts at sounding old (I'm really still in young adulthood, if you want to get technical, but technology always seems to age people more quickly).

My older brother dominated the NES. He beat everyone at just about every game we played on it, except for one. The only game in which I seemed to be able to match my brother and/or excel was Tetris. There have been numerous clones and several legitimate versions of the original "Russian" puzzle game. There were even two versions released around the same time when I was a kid. One version's two-player mode had the players taking turns, the other version had the players competing head-to-head on the same screen. My parents marveled at our ability to meet the game's challenges. After about level 14 you stopped noticing the changes in speed or soundtrack tempo; you just fell into a zone of block placement, keeping everything as tightly packed as possible and eliminating as much space as you could. I found out later that this relatively simple puzzle game had long-lasting benefits, beyond the ability to rack up a higher score.

Thanks to hours of Tetris playing, I have an uncanny ability to pack items into luggage, bags, totes, closets, trunks, corners, etc. that amazes some people. When I occasionally remember to bring my reusable shopping bags to the grocery store, I keep myself on budget by filling the bags as I shop (e.g. limiting myself to only 2 bags this trip so I reduce impulse buying). The cashier and bagger are often amazed at how I get everything into the bags. Often they are unable to replicate my feat and I sometimes end up with an extra plastic bag as a result. Packing for vacation works the same way. I tend to repack my daughter's bag so that it is no longer overflowing. Sometimes I (or my husband, who is also a student of Tetris) repack the trunk and, lo and behold, we can fit an extra suitcase. The Tetris skills come in handy on any trip because we almost always end up bringing back more than we took with us. The skill also comes in handy for crafting and sewing, as well as cleaning and organizing.

If you've never played Tetris, give a try. The more you play it, the more you start to see the world as a series of objects that can fit almost anywhere with just the right tweaking.

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