Theory of the blonde

May 8, 2023

   Photo credit: Carol Madigan

Since Carol likes to find things, and I prefer things to find me, we’ve adapted to each other’s preferences and enjoy a mutually agreeable compatibility on the road. But every road has a bump, and we hit one today.

“I had failed to maintain a Nash Equilibrium, and instead achieved  Champagne Fubar.”

  Today was supposed to be my grand gesture, accompanying Carol for a tour of the world renowned Sagrada Familia, the Gaudi “masterwork” that I rather see as a monument to self-indulgence (say, if Timothy Leary designed churches) and procrastination. (He started the damned thing in the 1890s)

   But I was all in (church mode, anyway, where I find a pew and park myself), and felt I’d acquitted myself well throughout the ordeal. Carol triumphantly crossed a bucket list item off her list, and I breathed a sigh I’d said or done nothing to ruin it for her.

 Never would have seen this on my own.

   Dinner seemed a reward for my compartment. Café Alphonso (that tapas bar around the corner from our apartment) delivered maybe the best calamari fritas we’ve ever had, plus amazing versions of otherwise simple dishes of rigatoni and a mushroom omelet.

Not much to look at, but delicious.

   That should have topped off a very successful day for me. And it almost did. As I slid oh so comfortably into our couch back at the apartment. Carol casually mentioned she’d like to head out again to La Rambla for a walk. Originally, she extended a get-out-of-walk free card to me, but then reneged and asked if I’d accompany her. I agreed, and immediately realized I’d violated the first rule of compatibility-on-the-road: don’t agree to do anything you’re not capable of handling. 

   In A Beautiful Mind, John Nash explains his theory of equilibrium by arguing how all four suitors of a beautiful blonde woman should ignore her in order to preserve their personal happiness and integrity. It’s known as a Nash Equilibrium.

   I did not want to go on that walk, but I did anyway. I went for the blonde and ruined it for everyone involved, which in my case was Carol. “I’m bored,” I blurted, effectively ending the walk and the evening on a rare sour note for us.

 Too beautiful an evening to be bored, right?

   Sagrada Familia was successful because I had tied my enjoyment to helping Carol enhance her enjoyment (ignoring Nash’s blonde). I had achieved a Nash Equilibrium. The evening stroll of La Rambla was me sacrificing my enjoyment (frustratingly pursuing the blonde). I had failed to maintain a Nash Equilibrium, and instead achieved  Champagne Fubar.

   Later in this trip, in Seville, we’d arrive home after a late night and long walk home to an apartment that Carol had come to increasingly dislike. “I want to go home,” she snapped. And so, going forward, both the “I’m bored” and the “I want to go home” became the catch phrases whenever our travels would hit a snag or a low spot. Carol would adopt the “I’m bored” designation, and I would take the “I want to go home” tag. Fortunately, we’d only employ them seriously once (on a dismal little train ride from Badajoz into Portugal on our way to Lisbon). The other dozen or so times were just to razz each other.

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