By Anthony Deyal
The virus and the government have made things so tough in Trinidad, in some ways unduly and unnecessarily so, that while other food suppliers like KFC and Gyros were allowed to operate as usual, vendors of the national staple, “Doubles” (curried chickpeas or “channa” in fried unleavened bread) were not. Neither “Please” nor pleas could shake the recalcitrant government and when some people protested in peace, claiming the decision was based on racial and not spatial considerations, the prime minister stopped all food sales. Some angry people took the blow hard but could not budge him.
My family and I figured that if we couldn’t get doubles in Trinidad, we might as well throw them. My son, Zubin, went into the storeroom, searched among all the boxes and castaway objects, and finally came out smiling with something that we had not used for a long time.
I could tell from the word “GO” that it was a Monopoly set which I had discarded in anger some years ago. hat had happened was that during a hard-fought game, the other three players, my wife Indranie, my daughter Jasmine and Zubin had all put up hotels and the journey around the board was fraught with more consequences than driving on a Trinidad highway at night. Despite all the traps, including going to jail, I had narrowly passed the hotel on Kentucky by a nose and landed on Chance.
Now for us Big Business tycoons, a CHANCE card is more likely than a Community Chest Card to do you serious damage. Its lethal consequences include advancing to the expensive Boardwalk or going to the nearest utility and then paying ten times the amount you threw, impoverishing you but enriching the property’s owner. I was very lucky. I got a card which demanded that I make general repairs on all my property – each house $25 and hotel $100. Fortunately for me, I had no hotel or house and was spared bankruptcy.
My three “happy-unlike-pappy” opponents smilingly evaded and escaped all the traps, and successfully made their throws earning even more money to buy and enhance their holdings. Then it was my turn to throw. Ahead of me was a veritable hall of flames- hotels on Indiana and Illinois followed by one of four railways owned by my daughter so that landing there was a hefty sum. Hard by were the yellow-bellied Atlantic, Ventnor and Marvin Gardens all with hotels and between them the Water Works just dripping for my dough.
Next, on the corner, a policeman anxious to send me to jail, followed by the expensive greenery of Pacific and North Carolina Avenues, separated from Pennsylvania by the Community Chest, my only hope of salvation. However, to arrive there, I had to throw an eleven. This is a longshot with a probability of 2 out of 36.
I shook the dice, blew on them, prayed silently and then threw. Yes. Eleven. I had landed on Community Chest. Hoping for an “Advance to ‘GO’” card where I would collect $200 and get some respite, a “Bank Error in my favour”, or even $50 from a sale of stock, I laughed in anticipation and grabbed the card. It said, “You have won second prize in a Beauty Contest. Collect $10.” I looked at Mr Monopoly preening with his sash and large bouquet and walked away from the game when I realised that he was so against me that he had paid me in Guyana dollars.
Actually, monopoly-like my last joke about Guyana (designed to make Indranie angry), is old and unrealistic. It not only has a luxury tax but rich people can be put in jail, something that would never happen in Trinidad or some of the other Caribbean countries. The game started in 1903 when an anti-monopoly activist and game designer, Elizabeth Phillips, invented “The Landlord’s Game” to illustrate the teachings of a “progressive” Economist (an oxymoron if ever there was one), Henry George. After some skull-doggery on the part of a shyster named Charles Darrow, Parker Brothers bought the game from him, paid off Ms Phillips for her rights (just $500 but in green- and not orange-backs) and started selling it eighty-five years ago in February 1935.
Subsequently, you had to take everything with a shake, if not of the dice, but of your head. I remember this woman complaining bitterly, “My husband is a cheater. He beats me and whenever I touch anything he owns he swears he will make me pay.” She added, “That is why I won’t play monopoly with him again.” There was this guy investing in monopoly games until he realised there was no money in them. There was another who actually pushed his car to a hotel and lost his entire fortune. He had stopped at his opponent’s hotel, an experience with which I am all to familiar. What I can say, after many years of the game, is that if I had a dollar for every time someone complained about monopoly addiction, I could put a hotel on all my properties.
One thing about monopoly is that there is a lot of advice going around and even books about how to improve your game. A few years ago, the 24-year-old UK monopoly champion, Natalie Fitzsimmons, said the key to winning is to be kind. That has clearly escaped my family.
However, her other advice is well taken- stick with three or four houses and stay in jail for as long as possible. While many of us dread the “Go to Jail. Got directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.”, Natalie says that in the later stages of the game it’s worth trying to stay in jail for as long as possible to avoid expensive rents. Fortunately, she was not around in World War II so her advice was not heeded. The Nazis let the allied prisoners of war (POWs) play board games and the British government, with the cooperation of the game’s publisher, hid real money among the monopoly money, as well as compasses, metal files and a map to help the POWs escape. I suppose this is when the “Get Out of Jail, Free” card became a real hit.
* Tony Deyal was last seen getting annoyed when he asked for the Speedboat as his token and was told by his son, the banker, that he should use the Top Hat as it would help him hide his baldness.