Monday, January 4, 2010

The First Moron Tax of the New Year

It is well known among my friends that I am addicted to the Internet and digital gadgets.  I waste a shocking amount of my free time surfing blogs and searching irrelevant bits of arcane knowledge (e.g. the main ingredients of Necco candies).  I frequently pause conversations so that I can consult or fact-check a point of contention with Wikipedia or IMDB using the browser on my cell phone.  I even go so far as to send a text message to my boyfriend, sitting across the dining room table from me.

As a holiday gift, my manager at work generously gave me and my boyfriend a puzzle broken up into 1000 pieces.  The attached note gently reminded me to spend time with my boyfriend without the aid of digital gizmos.

Well, the puzzle worked like a charm -- or, more accurately, a voodoo curse.  Over the holidays, my boyfriend and I spent nearly 20 hours laboring over it.  For three days in a row we sat hunched over my dining room table until 3am, until our vision became too blurry and our backs became too sore to continue.  We spoke almost exclusively about the puzzle and developed a vocabulary for the pieces: "Did you see a quasi-moto with pink tips and green feet?" "No, but I think that running man with red shoulders could go in there."

After all that effort, this is what we produced: 

But this would not be a story about moron tax if something didn't go wrong.  Did you see the problem?  If not, take a closer look:

Somehow, we ended with one piece missing.  We've looked for it, and we've concluded to our utter frustration that it's gone.

It is exasperating to put so much time and effort into a project that now could never reach completion.  But what really vexed us was our second discovery.  Did you notice it?

We had one leftover piece that doesn't fit anywhere.  A missing piece alone could be our fault, but a leftover piece suggested a deliberate act of cruelty on the part of the puzzle maker.  We could not help but imagine a prankster at the puzzle factory swapping one piece of one puzzle with a single piece in another puzzle.  We could see him giggling to himself as he set about his work, daydreaming about his victims tearing apart their house, upturning the couch, rummaging through vacuum bags, searching for a solution that was never made available to them.

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