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Mah Jongg

John W. Pinkerton


A few months ago, a high school classmate of Linda's retired and moved back to her hometown, Somerville, and she also brought her husband of fifty years, also a local,  back to Somerville with her.  Of course Linda was thrilled to have her old friend living only a few blocks away.  I too was pleased and soon the two elderly couples began to share meals with each other.  Now, to protect the  couple, we'll just call them Dianne and Dickie.  Anyway, that's what we call them.

Everything seemed to be going along swimmingly; then one day Linda mentioned the word “mah jongg.”  I guess I had heard of this foreign sounding name before, but I was immediately suspicious of it being that it had kind of a communist ring to it.

It seems that Dianne while off in Dallas had developed a liking for the game of mah jongg.  It appears that her “liking” had turned into an addiction and she was displaying signs of withdrawal from her playing the game with friends in Dallas twice a week---Twice a Week!

Linda explained all of this to me saying that Dianne wanted her to join her in playing the game.  It appears that she was also actively recruiting other locals to participate in her addiction.  She had become a pusher.

I told Linda that I didn't believe she would have much luck soliciting participants in Somerville.  We're a quiet little community whose ladies seem more inclined to participating in church activities or the local Mason's lodge.

However, in short order she had trapped three women into playing the game.  They were meeting at Dianne's home, and Dianne was sharing her expertise with the locals.

Surely this is as far as she would be able to spread her addiction; however, Dianne's recruiting expanded beyond Somerville to Caldwell, a community of 4000 a few miles north of Somerville.  As many as twelve began meeting in a fancy restaurant in Caldwell.  Holy moly!  Would there be no end to this madness?

Then the Coronavirus struck.  I thought this would certainly slow the spread of this insidious plot; but no, Dianne switched the game to computers, each participant playing from her home and even talking to each other via a telephone conference call.

When all of this started, Linda indicated that the game seemed to have a million rules, and I don't believe Linda was enjoying it very much, but soon she won a game and, Hell!, she too was hooked.

I decided to do a little research and discovered that mah jongg was a tile-based game developed in the Qing dynasty and is commonly played by four players.  The game has spread internationally and has an online presence.  I've gathered that the closest game to mah jongg that more folks are familiar with is rummy---another game of which I'm suspicious.

I also learned that the game is played with a set of 144 tiles based on Chinese symbols and characters.  They lost me with 144 tiles.  I'm more of a bouree or poker kind of a guy.

I haven't yet decided if the game is part of a Chinese plot or not, but  I am a little surprised that one woman, Dianne, could spread the virus…game so quickly.

I have my doubts that our ladies will ever be able to return to their simpler more pious lives now that they have been sullied by this horror, mah jongg. 

Lord have mercy on us all.