Thursday, December 26, 2013

Sheldor the Cruel: A Tale of Subterfuge and Cognitive Disregard

He tried and failed to reach me. But somehow he did persuade me into an elevator, a really small, tight elevator fit for only one person, claustrophobically, intimidatingly small, and stuck on a one-way path to the roof, a place I did not desire to visit. I don’t have a clear recollection of how he got me into that elevator but he achieved the feat nonetheless.

We were engaged in a race, a scavenger hunt to be more accurate, but I don’t know why he had to stoop to subterfuge to get a head start over me. After all, he is a genius and I am only aggressively mediocre; he could beat me at games of intellect so easily and practically without trying. So why did he stick me in that broken elevator that only went up to floor six, never down to the ground? He did it to be catty, unsophisticated and deceptive. I didn’t enjoy the suffocating ride to the penthouse floor, that’s for sure. There was a time I thought I might die trapped in that box.

But thankfully it didn’t last long. I burst out as soon as the doors opened and located the exit stairs quickly. Then I took the stairs down, down, down to the bottom, sprinting fast and maniacally. By the time I finally got outside and skirted across the lawn to the first set of clues, he was long gone as I expected him to be. That bastard probably figured out the first puzzle before he even finished reading it. And that is why I have been convinced now to cheat in order to defeat him. I have been persuaded to overcome him because he stooped to subterfuge. He never needed to deign to such measures to corral me. But he did. And now he is on my list, the list that ends all other lists.

I don’t have the constitution to sit cross-legged on the grass like a Bunny Buddha and try to figure out the involved puzzle that has large mathematical equations to solve, the one that has been laid out in front of all participants in this outwardly purposeless scavenger hunt that we are now engaged. Even before Sheldon led me astray, I was tempted to cheat because I knew I couldn’t win fair and square. I only got a B in high school calculus and only because the teacher smoked pot and gave everyone passing grades to compensate for his disregard. He also put a midget in a trashcan one time but that wasn’t why he was eventually asked to retire. Either way, I need to cheat now because my math skills are subpar and I have absolutely no inherent competitive nature.

I look around at all the other people engaged in the game, the scavenger hunt I barely cared about earlier this morning, reading the clues and looking up toward the sky in critical thought, hoping to solve the enigma on the paper laid out before them. I have decided that I am going to parasite off these people in order to advance to the next stage, follow blindly from one spot to the other, until the last clue awaits me.

That is where I might find him, looking around scrupulously, biting his nails and thinking hard about the critical common knowledge that he should have, the knowledge that will be his eventual undoing. Unfortunately for him, he’s never lived a day in his life, not really. I can beat him on that prospect alone. I’m almost certain of it.

I hope the last clue is derived from common sense or popular culture, something he knows nothing about. If I can get to that point, I can swoop in and win the prize, whatever useless trinket it might be. He thinks by one-upping me early on, he has earned some kind of distinctive honor; all he accomplished was to make me more determined to beat him in a game that I never even cared about winning in the first place. Prior to this, I would have treated this little game as a fun obstacle that might yield me some writing material. But now I see it as a way to bring down a genius, force him into a restrictive box, and make him see that his particular brand of knowledge is of no lasting use to this world. I want to devastate him now. He has made it so.

Using my keen observation skills and a bit of charm, I’m able to follow closely to the other groups of people who are smart enough to solve the calculus equation on the first clue card to advance. They make their covert way to the next clue and I act as though I have figured out the same thing. Nerds are easy to read. I will not be led astray again because the entire group is heading in the same direction. I’ll get there soon enough.

I know, as I follow the leaders, that Sheldon is up there somewhere, somewhere in front of me, scanning clues and trying to decipher hidden meanings. He is trying to be triumphant. But it won’t matter in the long run. His brainiac mind can’t beat my calm, dispassionate reason, especially when it comes to common sense and popular culture. I have lived a more public-inspired life; I’ll find the useless treasure long before he can even figure out what Radiohead means.

I come up on the puzzle of the next clue just as others are pulling the envelopes from the dispenser. I pull my own envelope and take out the contents to see if this is something I can solve on my own. It appears to be a puzzle of sorts. I hate performing busy work. I look over the shoulders of other people and see that their half-finished puzzles resemble a high-rise building, a building located downtown that looks familiar. I know exactly where it is. Fuck this puzzle; I’m moving on.

I get up and head in the direction of the building represented in puzzle form, intent on finding him there, or other frontrunners that might aid my further advancement. If no one is lurking nearby, I will wait and watch. I will take down Sheldon in this pointless, futile exercise, even if it is the last thing I do. 

-- keep close the vein of empty thoughts --

At the next challenge, the puzzle that actually ends up being the final piece of the scavenger hunt, I find him sitting there cross-legged in the grass, peering around suspiciously, looking for someone that means him harm. As I approach, I pick up one of the clues and set out to deciphering it before him. He regards me with narrowed eyes, scared, narrowed eyes, pupils shaking back and forth, his mind captured and strangled with millions of different catastrophic scenarios. I smile sinisterly as I take my seat and turn my attention to the clue. This will be my most prominent victory.

I will make him cry, a feat without a challenge, and make him beg for the time where his battles were less intrusive and intelligently physical. He has never matched someone like me before; he doesn't have any idea what I'm capable of. I will defeat him and in his darkest future hours, I will be there to remind him of this defeat.

Without more, I solve the puzzle and throw the clue aside. As I suspected, the last clue was one that bore on common sense, one that could only be solved through intimate knowledge of a rock band, a popular band from the eighties that most people who live normal lives have at least heard of. But Sheldon has not. He remains on the grass with his eyes focused and a scowl on his face. He has no idea what is being asked of him. His confusion is the most entertaining thing I have seen in weeks, months, years! He will be defeated by his own arrogance! No better man could fail the way he has.

As we catch eyes, me on my way toward winning, him on his way toward losing, I extend my three first fingers at him and mouth the words, "read between the lines". With nothing more, I am off, off to win, or come in before him, the smartest man in the world losing to someone who is self-proclaimed left-brain challenged. It is all the more evidence that races take more than intelligence; they take common sense and a loose moral code that can reconcile cheating and rationalize it into an acceptable distortion of pride. I'll beat him squarely on intellect. And then it will be his burden to carry.


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