Once upon a time, I wasn’t quite the intolerant bitch I am now.
One afternoon, I was at the pool hall, watching the regulars play. I noticed a regular come in and sit down to watch as well. This regular was a very good player. I knew he usually came in around mid-evening and after watching for a bit, would match up with whatever other regular was around and play for small stakes, usually table time or maybe twenty dollars and time.
I was an extremely terrible player. However, I knew that to get better, one needed to play better players. I also knew that better players could not be expected to play for free. I didn’t have a lot of money at the time, since I was in school, but I was willing to spend the money I could in order to improve my game.
It took me a little while to get my courage up, but when I did, I went over to this regular and asked him if he would like to play a race to seven or nine for table time. I knew I would not win that set, but I believed losing the money would be worth it to gain some experience. It might take this guy a half-hour or forty minutes, tops, to crush me in a race to seven (although I was hoping he’d feel generous and agree to a race to nine). I figured that would be quick enough not to interfere with his usual pick-up games.
He looked me up and down, and said, “You’re not worth my time,” and turned away.
I was a little surprised, but then thought, maybe he thought I meant we would play and then split the time, in which case, yes, I could understand how slapping balls around a table with a complete hack would be a waste of his time. I could also see how he might be insulted that a bad player like myself would assume he would play, and let me gain experience, for “free”.
“Oh,” I said, a little sheepishly, “I don’t mean that we should split time, I meant that we could play for time. You’re much better than me and I know I’m not going to win — but I’m okay with that.”
“You just don’t get it, do you?” he said with obvious irritation and exasperation. “You don’t play good enough to where I’d waste my time playing you — at all.” He turned away in a huff.
When you put it that way…
I stood there awkwardly for a moment, not quite processing what just went down. I was confused. I didn’t understand at the time why someone wouldn’t just want free table time, which is what I offered this guy. I sat back down and thought about things for awhile.
I was more than a little hurt in the beginning as I reviewed the brief exchange. For me, it took a fair amount of courage to ask a much better player to play for hard-earned money I was certain to lose. It never occured to me he would not want to play. At worst, I thought he might say he was waiting for his regular game and didn’t want to play before then.
Then, I was angry, because, if he didn’t want to play, he could have just said so in so many words. Why did he choose to cut me down like that? For the record, I was the barest of acquaintances with this fellow. I knew his name and that was about it. I knew him as a regular, but had never interacted with him.
Eventually, I came to the realization that he was right.
I wasn’t good enough for someone like him to waste his time on.
I didn’t know where he was, exactly, in the hierarchy of the pool room (and you ALL know what I mean by pool-room hierarchy), but I knew where I was — absolute rock bottom. As such, I shouldn’t have felt entitled to a gentle let-down because I was a sh#tty player, or because I was a girl, or both. I learned a lot about life and reality in that short conversation. For the rest of the week, I took the money I had budgeted to lose to this guy and used it for extra hours of practice. In my mind, I told myself I would get to the point where I was good enough to play this guy.
Years passed and during that time, I began to understand more about this game, the culture surrounding this game, the people in that culture, and how I related to all of it. I once needed to prove to people like this guy that I was “good enough”, that I was somehow “worthy” of their notice and approval. As you all know now, I can sum up my current philosophy (which has served me exceedingly well) as: “I don’t give a f#ck.”
I play for myself and to meet my own standards.
What brought about this post? A few weeks ago, I saw this guy again at the pool room. Curious, I watched him play and I was surprised — I remembered him as being a FAR better player. Upon further observation, no, he hadn’t been a far better player before — I had been far worse. Back then, a C or B player was a God-Level player to me. In the Land of Sh#tty Players, the Least Sh#tty Player is King, y’know?
The lesser part of me mused, I wonder if could I beat this guy now?
The better part of me chuckled, Even if I could, would I really give a f#ck?
I went to practice.