Al Batt: Rock, paper, scissors, paper route, shoot!

Published 9:19 am Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Tales From Exit 22 by Al Batt

Most people are at their tallest around the time they are getting dressed in the morning.

Not me.

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When out of bed, I’m at my shortest when I’m in my stocking feet. That’s because I sit down to put on my shoes.

That was an executive decision I’d made years ago without much thought.

I played rock, paper, scissors with my small grandchildren recently. I won. I’m sure they let me win. I gave them each a certificate of participation.

What brought me victory was when I threw a paper with each hand and called it a paper route. I’m a visionary. I was as openhanded as 12 o’clock. They were confounded.

Decision making can be a difficult process when you’re trying to decide which movie to see, who gets that last slice of pizza or who goes off with the space aliens and endures painful anal probes. Most of us make decisions like squirrels crossing a street. The streets are paved with squirrels that couldn’t make a decision. Rock, paper, scissors is played as a road to decision or to end a disagreement.

One person faces off against another. The players have an equal chance of winning, making the game random, but fair. Each participant places a hand flat out in front, palm up. The other hand is used to make the shape of the object you want to play. Agree on a cue that you’ll use to match shapes with your opponent. In the majority of games, the players throw their shapes on the count of three or count down by saying “rock, paper, scissors, shoot!” Tap your playing hand against your open palm as you count down. This helps synchronize the action. On the word “shoot,” both players reveal the object they have chosen.

To play “rock,” simply ball your hand into a fist. Rock beats scissors, but loses to paper. People tend to throw rock more often than the other shapes. According to the World RPS Society (RPS for Rock, Paper, Scissors), a rock is thrown 35.4 percent of the time, paper 35 percent and scissors 29.6 percent in tournament play. Throw “paper” by extending your hand palm down with your fingers outstretched. Paper wins against rock, but loses to scissors. Paper is a good object to throw if you’re undecided because it is more likely your opponent will play rock than scissors. For “scissors,” use two fingers to mimic the shape of an open pair of scissors. Scissors has an advantage over paper, but is beaten by rock. Rock crushes scissors, but is covered by paper. Paper covers rock, but is cut by scissors. Scissors is crushed by rock, but cuts paper. If both players throw the same object, it’s a tie. In this situation, contestants play again until there is a winner. The loser has the right to call for the competition to be the best two out of three.

Not everyone uses RPS. There are multitudes of other methods for deciding things. Some people use a Magic 8-Ball, a horoscope or a simple coin toss to make decisions. In football, the visiting captain calls heads or tails before the coin is flipped. The winner chooses either to receive the kickoff or to kick off and pick which goal his team will defend. In 50 Super Bowls, the coin toss has produced heads 24 times and tails 26 times.

A famous coin toss took place in Clear Lake, after a rock ‘n’ roll performance at the Surf Ballroom. There is some dispute as to who flipped the coin, but guitarist Tommy Allsup said that he’d lost a coin toss to Ritchie Valens for a seat on the airplane that Buddy Holly had booked because their tour bus had a faulty heater. Valens called “Heads,” won the toss and lost his life when he died in that plane’s crash on Feb. 3, 1959 along with Holly, J.P “Big Bopper” Richardson and pilot Roger Peterson. Allsup opened a club named “The Head’s Up Saloon” to commemorate this life-saving coin toss.

No matter what decision-making process is used, humans are good at making bad decisions. If you’re a poor decision maker, you’d better be good at apologizing.

Just remember, everything happens for a reason. That reason is often a poor decision or indecision.

You get to decide, but it might be a good idea to throw paper.

Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.