Adventures with Mr. Wizard
I first met Mr. Wizard down at the pool hall. Seemed like a pretty normal guy. Too normal actually. So normal it was kind of weird. Anyways, we’re talking a bit after playing a match, when he said, “I know a lot about pool.”
What a weird thing to say.
Seriously, think about your favorite activity, let’s say motorcycles, or dancing, or riding horses. Whatever. Now let’s say you were at an event for whatever your thing is, and some person you barely knew came up to you and said, “I know a lot about motorcycles.”
You would think that person was weird, right? Yeah me too. Kind of condescending also, as if to imply that I, or you, did not know a lot about whatever your thing is.
Anyways, I didn’t want to call the guy weird or get into some sort of pissing match. I had just moved to town and wanted to make some friends. But how was I going to respond to his proclamation? I suppose a normal response might be, “Like what?”
But alas, I am not normal. I am kind of weird too. But maybe he just wanted to talk about pool and had an awkward way of saying so. I noticed he was using the same type of cue as me, but not exactly the same. His didn’t have the standard issue shaft, and since ‘he knew a lot about pool,’ I asked him, “What kind of shaft are you using?”
“What?” Said a confused looking Mr. Wizard.
“The shaft. On your cue. It’s not original equipment. What is it?”
Mr. Wizard said “I don’t know that.”
Oh shit. This was not intended to be a “gotcha” question. I was not trying to be a smart-ass. This was not even particularly important. I’m sure there are many fine players who just play, and don’t obsess over their equipment, and that’s fine.
But if a guy wants to walk around saying, “I know a lot about pool,” well, maybe he ought to know something about his own cue?
I didn’t want to say that, so I just said, “Oh.”
After an awkward silence, Mr. Wizard added, “That’s what was on there when I bought it from some guy in Bangkok.”
I took a closer look. Standard maple shaft. No name brand. For most people that would be considered a downgrade from the semi-low deflection shaft that came with the cue. And though there are good reasons someone might prefer a standard shaft, I suspected Mr. Wizard had no such reason.
So I did not ask.
I also suspected the guy who sold it to him had kept the more expensive original shaft, effectively ripping Mr. Wizard off. But I didn’t want to say that either, so again I just said, “Oh.”
What exactly Mr. Wizard “knew a lot about,” I had no idea, and I didn’t really want to ask for fear of making myself look like even more of a smart-ass. Mr. Wizard clarified his expertise by saying, “I’ve got a link to all of Bob Jewett’s articles.”
Umm, okay. I guess if he memorized them all that might be considered “knowing a lot about pool,” but I had the same link. Anyone can. Search “Bob Jewett Articles” on Google and presto. Not only did I also have the link, I had just that afternoon been working on one of Bob’s drills.
I was tempted to ask Mr. Wizard what he thought of Bob’s ideas on combination throw shots, since he “knew a lot about pool,” but I was pretty sure he’d come up blank and I’d have to answer, “Oh” again. I didn’t want to do that.
But my problem didn’t end there, because through some cosmic coincidence, I knew Bob Jewett personally. He used to play on the table next to me every Saturday for about two years at Crown Billiards in San Ramon CA. While he was coaching, I watched his lessons, and learned right along with them as best I could.
But I could not say that to Mr. Wizard. The coincidence factor was just too high. That would sound like total bullshit. I didn’t want to sound like I was boasting so I couldn’t tell the truth. I had to say something else. The best I could manage was, “Yeah, Bob’s written a lot of good stuff.”
I got called to my next match just then, and the conversation ended. Thank goodness. I couldn’t help but wonder though, how Mr. Wizard had interpreted my parting remark. He may well have thought that I was bluffing. That I had just said something to pretend I knew what he was talking about, never suspecting that I knew much more.
As I started my next match, I found myself wishing that we were all gathered around poker tables rather than pool tables. Where I suspected that Mr. Wizard would announce, “I know a lot about poker!”
Some day. Maybe some day. But little did I know, Mr. Wizard would soon return to raise the stakes.