Try to detect it, it's not too late
There was a charge to enter the side tournament. It was for charity, after all. The organizer set another rule. If you were eliminated for too low a score early on in the contest, you could buy your way back in. Once. As a way to raise a little more money for the children's hospital this isn't a bad scheme. It makes the tournament run longer, but then who complains that they get more time in a pinball tournament than they had expected? People who have been at it for six hours and are starting to play sloppy, from fatigue, and know how long a drive they have to go home. But it was only about three hours into the side tournament at that point.
So when I failed on Nascar I had a second chance. I paid my five dollars and had another chance at the game. What had gone wrong before went right this time. I got a multiball going early on, and racked up several jackpots and was above the threshold for elimination before long. I could move on to the next game.
I would be the last person who could buy back in. To balance the raising of more money, the prolonging of the tournament, and the tournament ever coming to an end, buy-ins were allowed only until the number of players had dropped to twenty. At this point, also, the tournament would shift from dropping the two lowest to dropping the one lowest player.
bunny_hugger had waited for me before starting Tron. (This is the incident when she had to go to the bathroom, and that faintly suspicious kid came up ready to grab what he thought were free credits on the machine.) There was a low threshold on the game, about four million points. We had done all right on it in practice the week before, but knew CST had ruled it a game that had to be put on harder settings, and it was the game which had knocked bunny_hugger out of the first of her loser-bracket rounds. (I failed to point out, she won the second of her loser-bracket rounds; she didn't have a completely dismal day.) We're the last people to play it.
Still, four million points is easy to beat if you just get --- agh, not a bounce like that. Nor like the one bunny_hugger got. Well, you can save that with a couple good loops and the game is ... okay, well, there's a third ball. ... bunny_hugger gets a third ball too. OK, getting serious here; I'm close to four million and if I can just manage one or two shots on the scoop I'll top that and how do I fail at this? I come in under four million points and hit the lockdown bar, annoyed at myself for failing on Nascar, buying my way back in, and immediately failing again.
bunny_hugger tells me it's not over yet. Yeah, because she might somehow not beat me? She tries to get the light cycle lit, or to shoot the scoop that should be a safe half-million points. The ball fumbles its way out of play. She hasn't beaten four million points, but she's surely beaten me at least, right?
And she hadn't. My score is not much better than hers, just a couple tens of thousands of points. As she would say several times over the rest of the night, a couple of bumper hits or spinner hits, the petty cash of modern pinball, would have taken her over my score. I thought she had surely made it.
So here's the emotionally cruel side of our competing in the same tournaments. If I hadn't bought back in on Nascar, she would have been able to buy back in herself. If I had scored a little worse on Tron, she would have gone on. If I had scored a little better, then she would've lost to whatever the old threshold score was instead of mine. It's very hard to read this result as other than: bunny_hugger was knocked out of the Amazing Race tournament by me. Twice.
She would be ... not actually inconsolable, but it was close. CST wouldn't help matters by asking how she could have done so lousy on the game. She mentioned how she had been getting ten million or so reliably but then someone increased the game's difficulty. He said he had planned to, but changed his mind, and none of the settings were different to what they were the weekend before, when we practiced.
Trivia: The Fordmobile of 1902 would be renamed the (original) Model A.
Source: Henry and Edsel: The Creation of the Ford Empire, Richard Bak.
Currently Reading: The Big Oyster: History of the Half Shell, Mark Kurlansky.
A Leap Day 2016 Mathematics A To Z: Energy, originally meant to be that E = mc2 energy but I took it in a different direction. That direction would be down.