Endless nights around cards tables.
Abu Shreek makes a conscious effort to avoid regret. Every moment, incident and decision is considered “a part of the experience”, which is practically a survival skill necessary to deal with the over-confident, typical-Arab, proven-to-fail attitude of “Abu Shreek knows best”. However the “Trix era” is worth revisiting.
Trix is a very popular cards game in Jordan. It fits into the “evasion trick-taking” category in the same mold of “Hearts”, except that the Hearts in Trix are the Diamonds and the Queen of Spades is either the four Queens or the King of Hearts (say what?). Aside from the details, the game consists of four rounds, each round consists of five hands, which means that every game takes anywhere between an hour to three hours (unless Beesso (a notoriously slow player and one who was experimenting with mIRC cyber sex as early as 1995) is playing, then the minimum becomes three hours).
No group was ever satisfied after a single game. Endless hours, on daily basis, and over more than three years. Weekdays, weekends, final exams, semester breaks. Endless combinations and variations: Complex, inverse, doubling, five players, complex-inverse, partners, six games, complex-partners. Coffee shops, apartments, pavements, and hours.
Abu Shreek managed to squeeze in other occasional activities that catered to his interests and quasi-hobbies, but in general it was scattered around the main event. Even his official “day-off” on Wednesday nights, when he participates in a mediocre intramural athletic activity, was usually faced with the scrutiny and discomfort of other “Trixers”, for being a traitor and a sellout! When the government announced a day off on the occasion of the solar eclipse (thanks again), playing lasted for 14 straight hours; a record that was soon to be shattered upon the death of king Hussein, when the games went on continuously for three straight days.
It seized to be a matter of tossing cards and elevated to a personal level. Counting every card, reading faces and reactions, mounting tensions, and naturally lots of cussing, swearing and trash talking. Abu Shreek vividly recalls that night when he went to bed after one of those “marathonic” weekends, and upon closing his eyes, he saw the shadows of the ten of spades floating, while he was subconsciously counting clubs and mumbling: “where is the ace you bastards?”. The false sense of accomplishment after winning and the pointless state of concern and irritation when losing. The habit of losing any sense of time. Tobacco use is practically a prerequisite of the setting. The feelings of guilt and unproductively on the way home.
Not good times.
However, it made for a great social activity. It was an environment for meeting different people and a chance to make countless acquaintances and eventually life-long friends. Also keep in mind, that it provided good mentally-challenging (not as in retarded, but as in requiring a mental effort) entertainment value for a very little financial investment. (Mitthatt used to get completely ignored when he came begging for a second round of orders after three hours of occupying the coffee shop table). It is not exactly a chess-like mental effort, but it definitely beats mindless TV watching, or playing video games. As students in a completely dull and unchallenging college system, the Trixers had a lot of free time to fill, and despite the fact that they did not fully or productively utilize it, there could have been worse options that they avoided. (Tangent alert: A friend just graduated on top of his class from JU with a 3.7+ GPA. He literally dozed off during the classes he occasionally attended, seriously inquired if the school offered a degree by correspondence, since he was basically home-schooling himself, played for an athletic national team, played video games, and he still had a ton of time on his hands. And, he was an electrical engineering student).
Now whether this is a justification attempt or a guilt trip, the bottom line remains that the return on the time investment was practically ZERO. Aside from some bragging rights at the end of the night (which are meaningless and irrelevant since (a) after all it is cards (i.e. LUCK) and (b) you can get a Jordanian guy to admit that he is a bad driver before you can get him to admit that he is a bad cards player, even if you just beat him in ten consecutive games), and aside from the free cup of coffee (if you won and you happened to be playing for the orders), that was time flushed down the drain.
Abu Shreek is confident that if he invested a fraction of that time running, he will be the Jordanian record holder for a number of short, middle and long distances. If he invested a fraction of the time in knitting, half of Amman will be wearing his sweaters. But since Abu Shreek values “entertainment” and “leisure time” as much as hard work, and since we know by now that he is a half-glass-full kind of person, he just wonders what would have happened if for every ten hours he spent playing cards, he would have dedicated one hour to doing anything else.
On the bright side, NOBODY can even reach close to his level or challenge his Trix superiority.