Thursday, January 27, 2011

Queue - the board game!

Poles are absolute masters at queuing (waiting in line, my North American readers, waiting in line), so I would warn any non-Pole from potentially playing this game with a Pole: The Queue. You will be beaten, severely.

Seeking to take advantage of this aptitude, Poland's Institute for National Remembrance has devised a game to teach foreigners and non- alike about daily life in Poland before Communism finally was heave-hoed out in 1989. Players will have to send family members to various stores on the game board to buy all items on a shopping list. Deviously, the stores are empty (though all Poles of the right age will tell you could get the two Vs: vodka and vinegar).

I'm a big fan of great writing in strange places and this is brilliant, tense stuff from the game's rules: "The players line up their pawns in front of the shops without knowing which shop will have a delivery. Tension mounts as the product delivery cards are uncovered and it turns out that there will only be enough product cards for the lucky few standing closest to the door of a store." You can almost feel the sweat dripping as the cards are turned . . .

The brilliance of Poles' queuing strategy is also hinted at in the game's special cards: "Mother carrying small child," "This is not your place, sir," or "Under-the-counter goods."

The strange culture -- and sheer number -- of queues struck me right away when I first travelled to these distant shores so many years ago. I would go to the pharmacy, look for the aisle with the cough syrup and instead see a huge line running from a small plexiglass hole through which the pharmacist and the customer "communicated." Angry, mostly elderly women stomped angrily, flashing sharp eyes and warning me off (successfully usually). The post office always provided a good lesson in patience, or lack thereof, and still does in many areas.

But best was probably the foreigners' office, a place with nary an English speaker where I first learned the phrase "kto ostatni" - "who's last." Who needs a number machine with such a brilliant strategy. You walk in, ask who's last and then stick to that person like a glove. Of course, I did see a few fights while queuing for the office as people attempted to snake their way higher in line, but it did provide for drama.

The game's premiere is set for February 5 in Warsaw. Make sure to, er, queue up.

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