Monday, May 09, 2011
Room and Board
When in high school in the late 1960s, I worked many part-time jobs, including McDonald's. The working environment was brutal by today's standards. At McDonalds, there was Zero tolerance for idleness - we had to remain moving at all times. If we had no customers, we were to clean and if there was nothing to clean, we were to clean again. And again. No exceptions.
The manager would stand, arms crossed, in the center of the dining area behind the customers. If there were any lines, the manager was extremely displeased. Regardless of customer volume, and whether it was humanly possible to serve quickly enough to eliminate lines was of no matter. We would hear the terrifying "I see lines, gentlemen."
In this work environment, it would be hard to imagine an event momentous enough to warrant the entire staff taking a break. The world's first manned moon landing on July 20, 1969 was just such an event. Someone had brought a small black and white television, placed it on the counter to see the moment Neil Armstrong take that first step onto the moon's surface. The entire staff and group of customers all watched in silence for what was one of mankind's greatest technological achievements, fulfilling President Kennedy's vision nearly a decade earlier. We heard Armstrong say "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." And then it was back to work - customers were waiting.
Although the deployment of technology was not perhaps as rapid and voluminous as what we have today, it was still an exciting time and the appetite for the newest and latest was as ravenous as it is now. With a smaller number of consumer product innovations, many new things were given attention, things which in today's environment would likely be overlooked. It seemed everything had to be improved, and in some space age manner, if at all possible.
One of these was 3D chess, where 3 or more chessboards are stacked above one another. A variant, Tri-D chess, was seen on the first series of Start Trek in the late '60s. It was during this time that someone introduced the game to our high school chess club, of which I was a member. Most of us, however, saw it as rather gimmicky, adding complexity to a game which already offered enormous challenge and which diluted the beauty and classicism of the 2D version of the game.
Chess is commonly seen played in the streets and parks of New York City, sometimes with makeshift setups. The resourcefulness of New Yorkers and their willingness to accommodate never ceases to amaze me. Here we have a world class city fully immersed in the technology of our time, yet should the conditions require it, there is a willingness to do whatever is necessary to achieve an end, regardless of how primitive the solution. At times, New Yorkers can be like spoiled children, but when duty calls, we can, like most people elsewhere, rise to the occasion.
In today's photo, we see a player in Union Square Park with a milk crate for seating and a table so bowed it clearly demonstrates that to play 3D chess in this city, if the money, means or technology is not available, a New Yorker only needs a little Room and Board :)
More Chess Stories: Good Fortune, Chess Monsters, Marshall Chess Club, Solid as a Rock, WFF 'N Proof, Xiangqi, Guns or Big Heads.