Monday, July 6, 2009

But . . . it's a chicken

Stopped by a local pub recently located next to an art supply / stenciling store that keeps chickens in the backyard. Like I usually do, I stopped to watch a while, and recalled suddenly a story I heard told years ago by Calvin Trillin on the Tonight show.

Though I probably won't do it justice, this is what I remember:

Trillin lived in New York, but had a large circle of friends from all over the country and from all walks of life. All were welcome to stop by his home to eat or stay a while.

Every chance he got, in a kind of ongoing experiment in human nature, he would take his visitor for a walk, stopping at a place that had a Tic-tac-toe playing chicken. For a buck or two, you could play against the chicken. If the chicken won, he kept your money. If you beat the chicken, the guy paid you double.

Trillin would say, "Hey! This looks like fun. Why don't you play against the chicken?" And his guest, sheepishly at first, but later with more vigor, would plunk down a buck or two and play a game.

The chicken always won.

Trillin would prod his guest to play again, though sometimes they'd do it on their own, and it wasn't long before Trillin's guest was pulling more dollars out of his wallet and, with furrowed brow, perhaps using a new strategy every now and then, trying to beat the chicken.

The chicken always won.

After a few more games (and this happened every time, Trillin reports) the guest would turn a frustrated glance his way and say, in all seriousness, "It's not fair. The chicken gets to go first."

Trillin would turn to his guest and say:

"But it's a chicken."

The visitor invariably did not process this important information.

After losing a few more games, the even more frustrated visitor would turn to Trillin and say, "But it's not fair! The chicken plays every day."

And Trillin would reply . . .

"But . . . it's a chicken . . . and you're a human being . . . far more advanced on the evolutionary scale . . ."

And I am absolutely certain, had I ever been a guest at Mr. Trillin's home and been taken (unbeknownst to myself) down to the Village to participate in his little experiment, I would have reacted exactly the same way.


Unknown said...

While reading this, I kept thinking, I could beat that chicken, oh I could totally beat that chicken at tic tac toe...

I would spend so much money playing against that damn chicken.

Brendan P. Myers said...

Heh. They're really out there . . .

And what's the last thing the guy says?

"The chicken gets to go first!"

Aaron Polson said...

You lose when you choose to go against the chicken in the first place.


Great story.

Brendan P. Myers said...

Hey, I bet if they had opposable thumbs they could be trained for simple household chores.

And folks who know them best swear they've got individual personalities.

If only they weren't so delicious . . .