Some things still turn me into an angry jerk. That’s how it is when you are a recovering A-hole.
Everything used to turn me into an A-hole. Bad service. Long lines. Politicians. Talk radio. My mom. Employees. Customers. Bank tellers. Slow drivers. The list was endless.
The pennies in the ashtray of my car were not to make exact change, they were to huck at drivers who lingered too long at a four-way stop. Yes, I had issues.
It’s not a good way to go through life, being an A-hole. I always say I am “recovering” because like with alcoholism, you are never too far away from falling back into your bad habits. Nowadays fewer things turn me into an A-hole and I pretty much have it limited to cruelty to children, aggressive stupidity, and salsa music.
One of those things recently caused me to almost backslide.
A couple of weeks ago I had to volunteer at my daughter’s school carnival. You know the type; a weekend event filled with food, rides, games, and those salt-of-the-earth folks who in any other context would be picked up for vagrancy, carnies.
My job was to man one of the game booths, but unfortunately I didn’t get to pick which one it would be. I went to the school office to find out which one I had been randomly assigned (please be the paintball game, please be the paintball game), only to find out I got the ring toss.
This had to be the most bizarre version of that game I had ever seen. My job was to stack cans of food and soda into towers, and then give customers six rings for a buck which they then tried to throw over the towers, winning whatever they ringed.
People lost their friggin’ minds on this game.
Mind you, I am not talking about a demo of impoverished folks excited about winning basic foodstuffs; but more like middle-aged ladies wearing designer clothes and enough jewelry to sink a battleship.
“OH YEAH….I GOT IT! I GOT IT! WINNER, WINNER,” they would shout, pointing to the fruits of their successful throw.
You’ve never seen someone get so excited about winning a jar of off-brand peanut butter, a can of hearts of palm, and a diet Shasta cola. But despite the excitement, once somebody got a successful ringer or two and gathered their booty, they would inevitably move on.
The next day I returned to the school office, assuming I would be put back in the ring toss, but fate is a cruel mistress and I was re-assigned to the coin pitch.
As you can see from the photo above, the coin pitch board is laid out with various squares containing “3’s,” “4’s,” and “5’s.” The goal of the game is to pitch either nickels, dimes, or quarters onto the board where you get paid back the number of coins indicated in the square your coin landed in.
There are a couple of “rubs.” The first is that the coin has to completely rest inside the square; even a hair outside it and you lose. The second is that if you pitch a dime for example and land in a “5,” you get back a total of five dimes, not your original dime plus five more.
I thought that this game would get a few sideways looks from passers-by, and the occasional teen upstart trying to impress his girlfriend, but I was wrong. Boy was I wrong.
This booth was packed all day long, so much so that at times I couldn’t keep up with the action. And unlike the ring toss, people were losing and losing badly.
I did a mental calculation and figured that on average, a “winner” came up once out of every twenty pitches. These odds were so incredibly bad I could not believe it, but people were eating it up with a spoon.
Guys were dumping five, ten, twenty dollars worth on this con-game. This is where ole’ “A-hole Brian” started to come out. It’s stupid I know, I mean the point of the game is to make money for the school, my daughter’s school. I should have just kept my mouth shut and let the cash pile in.
It’s my weakness, my “A-hole weakness,” and I have had it for as long as I can remember. Ignorance. Stupidity. Imbecility. Doltishness. Asininity. Whatever you want to call it, it’s always been my hot button.
I’m not talking about a general lack of knowledge or an understandable naivety, but a boorish ignorance mixed with a desire to stay ignorant when the opportunity to learn is offered.
You want to know how compulsively fixated I could be on it? Even during my high school years, when the hormones of a young man are raging worse than masked anarchists at a G7 meeting and every living moment you have is about getting laid, I would actually take myself out of game if a girl showed herself to be an idiot. For example….
Me on date with hot chick who might let me get up to bat. Hot chick mentions she loves the “Spanish” food we had at dinner.
Me: Uh, well Don Jose’s is actually a Mexican restaurant.
Hot Chick: Mexican, Spanish…what’s the difference.
Me: Well Mexico is a country to our south, that was discovered by Europeans who mixed with the native population and created a new and distinct culture.
Hot Chick: But they both speak Spanish right?
Me: Yes technically, but there are dialectical differences, and using language as the litmus test to compare cultures is a bit stupid. The UK and America are quite different even though we both speak English.
Hot Chick: Are calling me stupid?
Me: Well you do seem kinda ignorant.
Fast forward to me driving home alone and needing some quality time in the shower.
So by the fourth or fifth toss, if these guys didn’t hit a winner on the coin pitch they were already so far behind the 8-ball there was no way they would ever get even, let alone get ahead. I started to needle people a bit, trying to explain to them the futility of their quest.
Some wised up and moved on, but oh so many, the majority in fact just dug in and bought in for more.
But like I said, I am a recovering A-hole. Years of therapy were worth it and I became self-aware that my “dick meter” was approaching ten.
I was able to reign myself back in, let people pitch all the coins they wanted, and just smile and say to them “thanks for playing.”
I am not good with expectancies, that is more Kid Dynamite’s area of expertise, but it didn’t take a rocket scientist to know that the expectancy in the ring toss was better than the coin pitch, and only a few smart players knew it.
It’s the same when picking your setups to trade. No matter how sexy or enticing you think a trade is, if you don’t have a reasonable expectancy compared to your risk, the more you trade, the deeper in the hole you will get.
You can’t let the “action” or the thrill of the trade blind you to low probabilities of success like at the coin pitch. You should always strive instead to find the high probability, lower risk setups like the ones at the ring toss.
What bclund is, is the intersection of markets, trading, and life (with some punk rock, pop culture, and off-beat humor mixed in).