A couple weeks back, I was out to dinner with some pals at the Farmhouse Tap & Grill in Burlington when the most extraordinary thing happened. (For further explanation of said extraordinary thing, see below). If you're wondering why I didn't report this incredible event back when it happened it's because I'm lazy and shiftless and also because I've been on a vacation to a locale far more exotic than your last trip — Trenton. Be jealous.
So I'm sitting at the end of the table of 10 and it's a Saturday night, so the joint is buzzing. I can barely hear what anyone is saying, but I'm nodding like I get it and that's enough for my dining companions. They didn't really want me to participate in the conversation anyway. Someone else is paying for dinner so I'm eating like a fat man at a Golden Corral buffet. I may have unzipped my pants under the table.
After nearly all of our dishes have been cleared away, the waiter comes over with two desserts — a petite chocolate milkshake and a colossal piece of chocolate cake. Now, I should mention that at the time, I was off of sweets due to a self-imposed moratorium on confections that will kill me (according to the New York Times Magazine). So seeing those two dishes float toward me was torturous. You know, like probably how Guantanamo prisoners felt when their nuts were being electrocuted.
Anyway, the waiter with the sweets put them down at our table, one in front of each of my two neighboring dining companions. A slab of chocolate cake to the lady on my right, and a cylinder of milkshake to the other lady on my left. Nothing for me. Awesome. The waiter informed us that the desserts were courtesy of a two-top at the front of the restaurant. We all swiveled to see who would bestow upon us such yummy treats.
It should have come as no surprise that the desserts were sent by a man in a pirate hat and his skinny-necked tablemate. In Burlington on a Saturday night, there would obviously be a dude wearing a pirate hat sending desserts to random people. It would have been better if he was dressed like a giant banana singing sea shanties about scurvy and bilge, but whatever. You can't get everything you want.
Of course we were floored. It's not like this kind of thing happens every day. I've never once even had a drink sent my way by a googley-eyed admirer, let alone had a confection shuttled over. Or really, even seen it happen. We motioned for the yar fellows to come and explain themselves. They obliged, and here's what they told us:
Apparently, they had been sitting at the same two-top for hours, draining not-inexpensive pints of microbrews and playing Farmhouse Battleship, a game they concocted to waste a lot of money. They must be rich. According to one of the mateys, Farmhouse Battleship is exactly like regular Battleship, except that in their game, you have to make up your own game board and rules, which they had done to a most detailed effect. Ah, nerds!
Each of their game boards was a laminated seating chart for the restaurant, mapping out all the tables and seats by their numbers. It was the same chart the host would use to seat people. The tables were split into zones and numbered, like regular Battleship. They would situate their battleships, cruisers and submarines around the chart they had made. Then they would guess combinations of tables and seat numbers to try and bomb the other's ships.
For a refresher on old-school Battleship, please consult this photo:
So when the loser's last ship is destroyed, wherever it was on the seating chart, the person in that seat wins some sort of food item. Earlier in the evening, they had sent various diners roasted nuts, pickled vegetables and other assorted nibblies. But because we were finished with our dinners, they had no choice but to ply us with desserts. Score, us.
According to our somewhat beleaguered waiter, these dudes had been there all evening, drinking and playing Farmhouse Battleship. Remember, this was a Saturday night and the restaurant was slammed. And these fellows were ordering beers and appetizers for like five hours. We asked them why they were doing it. Duh, cuz it was fun, they said. And nerderific. I guess it beats sitting at home playing World of Warcraft or graphing functions on their Ti84s.
I broke my sugar fast ever so briefly to enjoy a taste of the sweets that had been gifted to us. They were delicious, not only because they were free, but because they were born of ingenuity and creativity. Crazy nerdstyle ingenuity and creativity, but ingenuity and creativity all the same. Blow me down, young picaroons!
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