Saturday, August 4, 2007
Ouija and Other Lunch Treats
baon or rasyon, expectant of some after-lunch treat or other.
I suppose I can sort out my working years into seasons -- defined in terms of what we do between 12 and 1, after a wolfed-down lunch.
Crossword-puzzle solving season is as far back as I can remember. Three of us would race to the library in a bid to get to the newspaper first. The one who grabbed it first from its rack got to sit with the newspaper; the others would flank the lucky one, craning their neck at the page, waiting to be consulted.
My brother in law -- bully for him -- who was enrolled at UP would sometimes drop by at lunch time and refused no food or entertainment except a crack at the exact-same puzzle. That's how I came to know in-laws can be pains in the A _ _.
We've had our card-playing days. Name it, we played it. Black jack, red dog, mahjongg (cards, of course), 44, pekwa, ace-deuce, pusoy dos, tong-its. We often played beyond 1 p.m., at which point we'd lock ourselves inside the stock room, never mind that it was 2 x 2 meters big, windowless, airless, and had a mouse or two in residence.
We've had our season with dart games, game-and-watch (remember the handheld brickgames, popeye, octopus?), the rubics cube.
We had a long fling with word games -- scrabble, squabble (a more exciting and provocative version of scrabble), scribbage, big boggle and its local sister, word factory. Hey, I have bragging rights to "word factory" -- do you know? I coined it at the behest of office friends who quit to become entrepreneurs and chose it among a list I gave them, which included word safari, word war, and wordy-word-picker. (I' d have picked the last, wouldn't you?) My prize: Word Factory's first prototype set.
Hard to forget was our Pictionary season. It was rollicking fun and we were all fiercely competitive. Because of it, I willed myself to learn how to draw, but still I was better at guessing the word, but best at stomping my feet in anger and calling my teammates "dense" when they couldn't decipher my sketches. In turn, they wanted me out of the team. Our room shook with our laughing and yelling and jostling.
One afternoon, after a especially lively game, the whole building did shake and move as it had never done before. The quaking lasted an interminable five minutes, which found me petrified on a chair by the phone as officemates took refuge under tables. "Stop na naman, Lord," I recall crying.
Later that night, we learned Hyatt Terraces and Hotel Nevada in Baguio collapsed in the 7.7-degree quake, burying and killing hundreds in the debris... including one office friend who was attending a conference at Hotel Nevada.
It took a week before Joy's body was retrieved. A pall of silence and grief fell on our office and stayed for months. And we never played Pictionary again.
Which leads me to our cabbalistic days with the Ouija board. An office mate had an authentic one, the kind Linda Blair used in The Exorcist. We tried to call the spirits of Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Ninoy Aquino, John Kennedy, Elvis Presley. Most days, we had on board a lolo, nanay, relative or friend called in from wherever it is they were resting in peace.
Some days, we summoned no one in particular. Some unknown spirit or other would come, manifested by the shaking glass which then started to spell out messages.
One day, an unnamed and unsummoned visitor came. We began by asking for the usual -- name, age, sex, location.
Yes, location. Specifically, we asked: "Are you from heaven or hell?"
The moving glass answered: " H - E - L - L."
We persisted, even as our hands on the glass turned clammy: "How does it feel to be in hell?"
And the glass had an answer that chilled our spine: "C - O - L - D."
That was also the last time we dabbled in spirits.
Note: We watched Ouija (featuring Judy Ann Santos) the other weekend at the cinema. I didn't like it much (read: didn't scare me a bit) but it nudged memories.