“Come on down! You’re the next contestant on the Price is Right!” –announcer to contestant, from my all-time favorite TV game show, The Price is Right
I don’t wanna play today. I just wanna go home, man. 5:30 pm and the big board shows a bevy of departures over the next 30 minutes or so. One for Rye, another for Mt. Vernon. One is conspicuously blank, of course: mine. The departure is scheduled for 5:41 pm, and this ever-increasing throng and I are now standing here like cattle anticipating the track number, watching the big board with increasing fervor. I’ve played this game before, unfortunately, and it ain’t fun. As soon as the slot lights up with the track number the great rush will be on. The prize? A preferred seat on the train and, if positioned right, avoidance of the ensuing traffic jam through the bottlenecked gate. Games are supposed to be fun, this one’s just dumb. Here’s how I’m gonna play:
I know from experience that my train usually comes on track 52 on the upper level (A better strategy would account for all available information and apply Bayesian probability, but I won’t get into that today). But sometimes it comes on track 202, downstairs (especially when there’s a delay like this). I can gauarantee a decent seat if I wait over by the steps. That will put me smack in the middle between the two gates and give me enough time to get to either the upper level or the lower level before most of the mob. But being in the middle means I can’t ‘win’: Sure, I’ll get a ‘decent’ seat, but not a ‘preferred’ one (‘preferred’ meaning one of the single seats, not a double, so I wouldn’t have to sit next to anyone. Or, the ’emergency exit-‘ like seats similar to those on a plane with all the leg room). As with most things, no risk means no reward. So screw being in the middle; no one ever won by being in the middle.
“The 5:41 train will be departing on track 202,” an announcement sounds on the loudspeaker.
Well, that didn’t work; Train is downstairs. Now I’m stuck behind the herd and have to slowly walk shoulder-to-shoulder to the train. And, probably won’t get a seat, not a preferred one anyway. I’ll probably have to stand for an hour. Oh well, there are worse things in life to have to endure. Hopefully, tomorrow they’ll have it together and I won’t have to play this stupid game. But if I do, I’m going with track 52 again. I’d rather lose going for the win than lose by not going for it at all.