I have a friend who writes books in an engaging style, using her wonderful imagination. She is currently in hiding, fearful for her life, and for her own safety writes under multiple pseudonyms. All because of her having discovered another practical use for diversity. You may recognize her work under the names of Burrito Bar Betty or Gǔn kāi Húndàn and more recently as Fanny Brawn (the real Fanny was the girlfriend of the poet Keats). And depending on which side of the Atlantic you live this could bring to mind either a formidable derriere or a toned, muscular vagina. As it so happens our Fanny has both.
Growing up, Fanny lived in a rural, homogenous region of the country. There wasn’t much to keep a young gal amused and out of trouble; so her and her high school friends invented a game they named highway poker. Driving around with her chums, each player in their turn would select a car up ahead as their hand and then race alongside to see what they got. The people in the car were their cards. It was scored opposite of regular poker where the more you had of one thing the higher the hand. In highway poker it was the multifarious hands that took the pot. Which in her neck of the woods meant lots of smittys!
A smitty is a white person, and so designated from the nickname given to people named Smith. A very common name. And unless you were fortunate enough to get dealt a midget or cripple, the hands tended to be pretty much the same. There were big smittys and little smittys. Girl smittys and boy smittys. Dumb looking smittys and those smittys who had been maimed in farming accidents. But all in all it was still just a bunch of boring smittys.
To make things more interesting, red crested smittys, white people with red hair, were considered jokers and could be used for any other nationality. She once drew a family of gingers who were just passing through town. Five wild cards in the same hand! She instantly declared herself to be holding one African American, one Mexican, one Asian, one Aleut and one Filipino making her the only person ever known to have drawn a royal flush.
You can imagine her excitement when she went away to tackle higher education. She was in the big city now and there were taqiyahs, kippahs and turbans everywhere. Serapes and sarafans in the same car sitting right alongside keffiyehs and thawbs with a sherwani, of all things, behind the wheel. Wanting to capture this wonderful new deck of cards she put together a book containing the revamped rules for highway poker. And like every other young writer she hoped her work would have an unparalleled impact on something. And who knows? she thought. Maybe highway poker might even replace “I spy with my little eye” as the game of choice for travelling families everywhere.
She provided tips on how to differentiate between Cambodians and Vietnamese, Tofs and Cossacks, Nigerians and Ethiopians, Gentiles and Jews, Tupinambáas and Goitacás. Gender proved more difficult but with careful study she was able to sort through the novigenders, demigenders and aporagenders. She was even able to distinguish between a dyadic and a cishet. But those lovable red crested smittys, always a sentimental favorite, remained wild cards.
But by this time academia had lost its sense of humor. Now cloaked in sanctimony and tolerance, Highway Poker was immediately characterized as an “indecent exploitation of the cherished differences between people” and would not be tolerated. Certainly a thinking person might have asked how using nationality and sexual orientation quotas when deciding on admissions in order to garner federal funds and larger donations was any different. But no one bothered to bring that up. There’s nothing like a fact to spoil a decent crusade.
The outrage spread quickly amongst the student body. Grieving rooms, the safe spaces where students could gather when they felt indignant, victimized and threatened, were awash with devastated young scholars clinging to each other for consolation. This was an attack on sacred ideology itself and a direct challenge to their precious neo-individualism, the beloved dogma that demanded everyone needed to believe the same thing or else there could be big trouble. This heretical lewdness, and the latest threat to correct thinking, needed a name and came to be called neo-pokerism. And the anti neo-pokerists were hell bent on fighting off this new menace.
Fanny and the neo-pokerists who chose to support her because, “highway poker is so much fun to play” were chased down and roughed up. Barely escaping with their lives, they ran off campus and looked back across the street while rubbing their knots and bruises. A few of the particularly offended zealots chased them further down the street until they were forced out of town entirely. It was now far too dangerous on campus for them. But the mini-Torquemada’s still remained vigilant and walked the quads ferreting out the last of the neo-pokerists. Fanny never went back.
You can still find copies of Highway Poker here and there. Fanny’s new book, Shaving Your Ass with Occham’s Razor is due out in the Spring. If you get a chance go get yourself a copy. And the next time you are out on the road celebrate diversity from the comfort of your car and play a game of highway poker.