Maybe it's a kind of magic
We went to Taco Bell.
I know it sounds uninspired. But it was the mid-afternoon and we needed to eat something. There was some kind of chicken place next door, not an ideal. The Rally's Or Checker's Or Something seemed promising for milkshakes but didn't have any vegetarian burgers or anything. Little Caesar's was uninspiring too. Across the divided highway in a strip mall was a Mexican buffet place that looked promising. The divided highway would have been madness to cross except that some heavy construction outside Fun! Billiard and Gameroom Superstore, the tournament venue, made the spot a steady traffic jam. This would complicate our getting there, but make dashing across the street not insane.
The Mexican buffet place looked promising. A pretty big spot, maybe the size of an Old Country Buffet. Nobody greeted us. There wasn't any cash register we could find. There was a menu with a la carte prices on it. There were some cafeteria-style serving stations but no trays that I noticed anywhere. We had literally no idea how to indicate a willingness to exchange money for food. There was a good-sized family coming in with us, so we figured to just watch what they did. They sat on some couches along the wall, with no obvious intention to eat or pick up food or anything. Somehow we could not work out how to get something to eat. This would not be the only time this happened to us in Dallas.
So that's why we left and went to a Taco Bell, which might be a dull choice but was at least within our powers to understand. It was a surprisingly good one, too. Easily the best of the maybe five Taco Bells I've ever eaten at. I'd swear they put in a bit of lime which I didn't realize was missing before. Plus it was an island of Wi-Fi so I could verify that work wasn't missing me yet.
After a while spent eating and wound-licking we went back to Fun! etc. While we were gone SMS had been knocked out, and she (and family) had left. We wouldn't see them again that weekend. ADM was still playing, as was his friend who'd been delayed at the airport. We could talk with them, and root them on, when we weren't walking around for something to do. Some of the pinball machines in the other game rooms were turned on. I never knew if there were any rules to which ones were allowed or not, and felt too shy to turn anything on. There were a bunch of solid state and electromechanical games I'd love to have tried out, especially since so many of them were, as games they wanted to sell, set to the easiest, most newbie-friendly configurations.
The #1 seed in the Women's World Championship --- the person bunny_hugger would have played had the person above her not dropped out --- lost in the first round. The replacement #16 seed --- someone from Canada who'd either flown in on two days notice or who had figured to pop in just in case and got lucky --- was knocked out in the second round. bunny_hugger could not help thinking that could have been her. HWH, having beaten bunny_hugger 4-1 in the first round, beat her second-round opponent again by 4-1. Also her third-round opponent. This did not make bunny_hugger feel better about her performance. Especially when she heard how, in some later round, HWH responded to her competitor picking Flip-A-Card with ``Flip-a-Coin?''
The night would wear on. There were a lot of games to play as the National Championship worked something like forty people down, in best-of-seven matches again, to something manageable. A bird joined the proceedings. One rumor had it that the bird had been in all day but had only just got more active. It flew around the back rooms some, and then into the main tournament room, where people tried to somehow shoo it off to the safe outdoors, which it wasn't having.
Finally, after sunset, the final matches finished. For the Women's World Championship, anyway. HWH won. She admitted how she had thought the establishment of a separate women's title was a silly idea --- but --- no, no, she changed her mind before winning --- because it is a way to show to women that they are welcome and wanted in the pinball community.
And still the Nationals went on. ADM was ultimately competing against the Florida state representative, EJS. I got in the crack that well, either way, at least the title's staying in Michigan. EJS has been in the competitive pinball a while. His player ID number with the International Flipper Pinball Association is 90. Mine is 23,917. EJS is a weather forecaster in normal life. It was inevitable that he'd play Whirlwind, Williams's 1990 storm-themed game. Even if it weren't his favorite game, nobody would give him a choice in making it his favorite.
They have an epic game. I don't have recorded whether it was the last game of the set, but it dramatically ought to have been. ADM puts up over eight million points on the first ball. For scale, on real Whirlwind tables, I've never broken about six million, and on this particular table I never got past five million, that with luck. I think he ended up putting in more than fifteen million points on the game. And EJS beat him. ADM lost the match 4-0.
By then it is so very late, getting on 11. We've been basically on our feet for thirteen hours. There's still two rounds of the Nationals tournament to get to. We tell ourselves we can watch the results streaming on Twitch and go back to our hotel room, where we don't watch. We sleep, a lot.
EJS goes on to win the US National Pinball Championship. He is, as of this writing, the #1-ranked player in Florida and in Texas. He's the 82nd-ranked in the world.
Trivia: In the Julian Calendar the dates of Easter repeat every 532 years. In the Gregorian Calendar it would be 5,700,000 years, if the recession of the Moon from the Earth, the precession of the Earth's orbit, and the lengthening of the Earth's day were not important.
Source: Marking Time: The Epic Quest To Invent The Perfect Calendar, Duncan Steel.
Currently Reading: Boom, Bust, Boom: A Story About Copper, The Metal That Runs The World, Bill Carter.
PS: Did This German Retiree Solve A Decades-Old Conjecture? Spoiler: I don't know.