11:22 4 NOV 2015 Billerica, MA GS Jade Barrett (Csbnews.org correspondent)
«Accidents will happen in the best regulated families» – John Dos Passos
Our playing schedule left plenty of time to take ourselves on a driving tour of the Asiago area of Italy. Home of one of the best cheeses in the world, Asiago itself is a delightful town, and Saturday plays home to an excellent craft market. Those of us who had to leave our dogs at home had the opportunity to meet many of the local ones as they took their owners for a walk.
The cool, crisp autumn afternoon was perfect for strolling through the center of town, testing some of the produce and learning about the specialty items that are grown throughout the area. I paid special attention to the wonderful porcini mushrooms, as well as the spek (the closest comparison would be a slab of bacon for those of you at home) that is a true joy for a chef to play with.
Entering a particularly interesting looking delicatessen, I met a very well educated butcher who spent almost an hour introducing me to the local mushrooms, hams and cheeses (try this, but do not buy it, he told me a couple of times). Despite the fine gentleman’s total lack of English, and my improving, but still poor command of the Italian language we managed to find common ground speaking the language of gourmets. If it were not for our demanding schedule, I would still be there, learning everything I could from my tutor about the tastes of the region – and gaining a fair amount of weight during the process. With our delicious acquisitions well in hand, Dr Donna, Anne and I headed back south to our home base in Padova.
With the start times of 16:00 and 21:00 at the Circolo Bridge di Padova, we were able to complete our trip and still arrive in time for panini, espresso and a duplicate. The games are shorter than we play in North America, typically 18 – 21 deals and I have become convinced that duplicates of this length contribute to maintaining – and even growing – the attendance of this great club’s evening games. Another benefit of the daily 16:00 start is that people who do not want to fight the commute can come to the club play 2.5 to 3 hours and still be home for a late dinner and enough sleep to comfortably go to work the next day.
I was always concerned that people get their entry fees’ full value and accordingly our club always played somewhere between 25 – 28 boards. Occasionally we would here a few grumbles that our games were too long, particularly from our newer players, but never gave too much thought to it. Then one night I accidently set up the wrong six table Howell movement for our small Thursday evening game.
Start times for our club became a strong suggestion, for many of our players regularly arrived anywhere from gametime to ten minutes after (to be fair, Southern California traffic is legendarily capricious, delays can be over an hour long just for a few miles). On the night in question, I threw the guidecards on the seven tables, dropped two boards at each table and started the game. During the second round three different pairs pointed out to me that our game was only going to be 22 deals. I continued to hear the appropriate criticism for my selection of movements for a few more rounds, but the grumbling died down after an hour or so. Suddenly the game was over almost forty minutes earlier than usual and not only were there no more complaints, but a few apologies as almost half of the competitors made positive statements of appreciation for the accident. One comment that I remember very clearly came a few days later from one of my most vocal critics:
«My wife often complains that I am home so late from the game, that I am too tired and grouchy when I finally settle down. Thursday night, not only was I home early, but I felt better despite that fact that we did not win!»
Happy accidents can make happy customers.