Serendipity is a real game my father invented. It was a spur-of-the-moment idea, much like the contents of the game. Around a year ago I was walking around town with my father, my sister and two of my older cousins. We’d just been to an Italian café, and before that, ice-skating. It was cold. My dad suddenly suggested that we play a game that he’d just made up, something he dubbed, “Serendipity.” Actually, I think the game was so serendipitous that he was still making up the rules as he explained it to us!
How does the game work? Well, it starts off by each of the players picking a random number from 1-100. (Don’t worry, this has nothing to do with algebra.) Then, the person who hates maths the least adds everyone’s numbers together. After that, a member of the group is elected to walk that number of steps, in whatever direction they want. Well, whatever direction is practical; basically, anywhere that doesn’t involve walking right into a road/field/forest/UFO/somewhere without shops. The other members tag awkwardly behind; their job is to remind The Walker of the how many steps to take – it’s easy to forget -, and to accidentally slow down the other pedestrians of the pavement because they are clumped together behind The Walker. Got it so far? Good. Now for the final step of the game: Whatever shop The Walker stops outside, everyone enters together, and they choose something for £2 or under to buy. You with me? The beauty of it is that you could stop outside ANY shop, and no matter what shop it is, you HAVE to go inside. And you have to spend money. Which is the challenging part because it’s always difficult to find something that’s £2 or under. So you get this really satisfied feeling when you manage. The game is an epic way to open your mind and make you do something that you wouldn’t normally do.
Yes, to spend a load of money on crap that I wouldn’t otherwise buy. Well, that too. But the point of the game is to experience something that you otherwise wouldn’t. I have my suspicions that my dad was inspired by Yes Man when he came up with the idea.
The first time we played it, we landed up outside some sort of restaurant or club with crazy expensive prices – so we crossed the road (which isn’t cheating) to the shop directly opposite. It was a SpecSavers. Great. As soon as we spotted it, I had a feeling this was going to be a tough one. A pair of glasses for £2? Fat chance. We entered and looked around for a while, before spotting a collection of spectacle-screen cleaning utensils. My father gave me two quid, and I bought a packet of lens cleaning wipes. VICTORY! We also had a conversation with the staff in the shop, who explained to us about laser eye surgery and how it works, which was fascinating. If we hadn’t played serendipity, we wouldn’t have found out about that, would we? My dad and one of my cousins split the packet of lens wipes between them. They were the only spectacle-wearers playing.
Our next round took us to Topshop. Walking in, there was nothing on the top floor that would fit into our price range. We headed downstairs. Below ground, we located the cosmetics-and-trinkets section and began our search. I don’t think any of the makeup was £2 or under; that would have been too easy. Typical. I remember there being some some mini portable mirrors that were amongst the cheapest items, but either they were still too expensive, or they were not worth paying £2 for. A quick tip for you when playing Serendipity: don’t just go for the first inexpensive item that shows up; make sure to find more than one option, if possible, and then see which has the best value from there. It took a bit of time but eventually we decided on some facial cleansing wipes. Two packets of wipes in one day! One of the most memorable parts of the experience was rooting around in my wallet for enough copper coins to round the amount to £2 in order to pay. My dad helped and we landed up with a pile of them on the counter that the lady behind the till had to double-check and help us count. She was so nice! I can’t remember exactly how, or what she said, but I remember liking her, and the fact that she smiled a lot.
Instead of playing another round after that, we visited a cool candy shop, and a few other stores. I can’t remember why we didn’t play another round! I do know that I wanted to, but I think it might have been that my cousins, sister and dad were getting hungry and wanted to look for somewhere to eat. Whatever. I was the only one that wanted to continue playing but I was outvoted.
After that, I asked my father so many times to play Serendipity again, but we just didn’t get round to it. There was always an excuse. Finally, the other day he agreed. My friend, Mateusz had come over and we were wondering how to make use of the remaining daylight hours; watching television would have been a waste. My keen suggestions of a visit to the graveyard had, to my disappointment, been heartily refused, so we were left with the only option of playing Serendipity. Okay. The next question was which part of town to go to. I suggested Camden, which was much more enthusiastically received than my earlier idea to go to the graveyard.
Off to Camden we went. Surfacing at the station, I was handed a flyer by two leaflet-ers outside the tube. “Are you under 18?” one of them asked me after I’d taken it.
“Yeah,” I replied. He said something more but there wasn’t time to catch the words. I walked on and looked at the leaflet. Oh. Now I got why he had asked me that. It was for a nightclub. The worst thing about it was that he leaflet mentioned all my favourite bands. And you got five pounds off if you showed the flyer. Urgh, four more years until I’m eighteen. Oh well – I had an afternoon of Serendipity ahead of me.
We each picked a number. Mateusz added them up, and my sister counted the steps. We landed up outside a band-shirt and clothes shop selling studded belts and spiky chokers. Oh dear. This would be hard. A guy led us further into the shop to where the band shirts were kept. Haha, we certainly had enough money for those. I passed a female assistant with piercings, an overweight white shop-keeper and another assistant, this one wearing a long black dress with pale white makeup, piercings, and a headband.
“Do you guys want to ask if they have anything under £2 here?” I asked Mateusz and my sister. I certainly wasn’t doing it. It was intimidating enough walking into one of those shops, and I definitely didn’t feel like explaining about the game. “Or shall we go?” My question was met unsatisfactorily.
“Up to you,” Mateusz said, “this is more your kind of shop.” That was true. But still, why did it have to be my decision just because we’d happened to land up in a shop that I liked? Well… I wasn’t about to give up…
As the shop keepers eyed us, we bought some time by curiously looking around. I excitedly pointed out to the others a shirt that said “Mayhem,” on it, and another that said, “Behemoth.”
“Yeah, this is more your kind of place,” Mateusz repeated helpfully.
A customer walked in and inquired about whether the shop sold Rammestein shirts. One of the assistants answered him. I looked around nervously.
“So do you guys want to ask about whether they have anything under two quid?” I whispered again to my sister and friend. They shrugged unhelpfully. We walked back to the front of the shop. My dad was there waiting for us. “How much do you think the bracelets will cost?” I asked him, Mateusz and my sister softly – eyeing the spiked black wristbands that were hanging up.
“Why don’t you ask?” said my dad. Wow. Everyone was being very supportive.
“If you need anything, I’m here,” the first assistant appeared behind me with a smile. I sighed inwardly and braced myself.
“Thanks. Do you have anything under two pounds?”
This was totally *NOT* my day for humiliating myself. “It’s just for a sort of game we’re playing.” She paused thoughtfully. “Well, these ones might be about two pounds,” she told me, pointing to one of the bracelets,”but you’ll have to ask the man over there.” Unfortunately, the bracelet she’d shown me wasn’t one of the cool spiked ones, but an old faded wristband. Fortunately, she was taking me seriously and being pleasant. Not treating me like I was wasting her time. Phew. I’d been lucky.
“OK, thank you,” I said with a smile. Well… that was one option… but I wasn’t sure whether it was the best one. I had been hoping she’d suggest one of those black wristlets with sharp points. “Do you have any badges?” I asked her. I’d seen a few when we walked in, but I wasn’t sure if they were for sale. The assistant kindly moved around a few crates and clothes, uncovering a collection of badges. I thanked her and had a look. There were a few glamourising marijuana, one or two advertising Lacuna Coil or something, but they were mostly un-extraordinary. And then I spotted a badge that appealed to me. “Oh, Dimmu Borgir!” I said happily.
“Oh, you like Dimmu Borgir??” the lady said with another smile. Well, yeah. I hadn’t listened in a while. I’d mainly heard the album Spiritual Black Dimensions but I conveniently forgot the name of it as soon as she asked whether I liked Dimmu Borgir. Otherwise I would have told her about me listening to it. My favourite track was The Insight and the Catharsis but I forgot that too. Great. “Yeah, I’ve listened a bit.”
“Cool,” the lady said, nodding. I looked at the badges a bit more before deciding on the Dimmu Borgir one. The assistant unpinned it for me, and then, seeing that it was rusty, she said,”Oh… if you want, I can buy it for you because I didn’t know it would be like this.” Wow! I thanked her but declined. I walked up to the flabby guy in charge of the money and paid the £1 he requested. He was so grumpy.
Having bought the badge, I figured I owed the assistant an explanation for my strange request – I also didn’t want the people in charge of the shop to think I was just a stupid kid who couldn’t afford their products. So, as quickly as I could, I told her how the game worked. I hoped I explained it well enough. I mean, it can be hard to understand if someone unexpectedly comes up to you in a shop and starts telling you the rules.
“Oooh, I see,” she said. We exchanged smiles and I left the shop.
Our next round of Serendipity took us to a similar looking place, this time with more jewellery and an unpleasant looking man standing outside. We inspected the display near the entrance. “Should I ask if they have anything under two quid or shall we just go in?” I asked the fellow members of my party. As you can see, I am the main Serendipity-enthusiast here.
I ended up asking again. The man shook his head disdainfully and said “No.”
“Nothing?” I asked. He shook his head. We turned away, and when I looked back, he was smirking and laughing at us. For some reason, that made me really angry. Maybe it was the fact that he obviously thought we were a bunch of time-wasting kids who couldn’t expect to be taken seriously. I was also pretty dismayed by our failure.
We decided to cheat for the next round. This was Mateusz’s idea. He suggested we each pick 1 as our next number, so that in total we’d get 3. That way, we’d end up outside the café 3 steps away, which definitely had something for under £2. We did that, and, after some debating, bought a packet of healthy vegan-berry-crispy-thingamabobs. The thing I remember most about that encounter was hearing the cashier counting out the last customer’s money in Spanish. That fascinated me, because he obviously spoke good English, but when counting out money, he reverted to his mother tongue and spoke aloud. The guy was nice, but I won’t be trying the healthy snacks again. They mildly resembled cardboard-flavour rice crispies with candied fruit.
Our last round of Serendipity nearly made me get run over in the middle of the road – no exaggerating (okay, maybe a bit) and then led us into a Optician’s, called Eye Contacts. I didn’t want to stop walking when I got to the road because I knew I’d lose count. So I just carried on walking and counting until we reached the Optician’s. How exciting. This was not a normal Optician’s; it seemed especially expensive, and there were no lens wipes in sight. So guess what I did? I asked. (Surprise, surprise.) I was in luck. The lady behind the till pulled out a secret drawer beneath the counter reached in for a glasses-wipe. I paid the required 50p for it, and then, to my surprise she gave me an extra wipe because she’d “taken so long” to count out the change. I wasn’t sure at first whether I was supposed to politely refuse, but then I took it anyway and thanked her with a smile.
Woohoo! We had come to the end of our game of Serendipity. Obviously there’s no rule that says it has to last only three rounds, but by that time we had got slightly fed up of spending money on things we didn’t need – for that day, at least. I had done most of the asking and buying, but later on my friend did a dare, so that made up for it. We’d overheard a woman saying that she was Polish, so the dare was for him to go up to her, and ask her in Polish where she was from (my friend is Polish.) Surprisingly, he did it.
When we got home, I listened to Dimmu Borgir again to justify me wearing the badge. And yes, I would suggest you check them out!
Thank you for reading this post. I hope sometime you’ll play Serendipity, or at least be inspired by it. If you do play it (or something similar) post your results in the comments section! I can’t wait to hear them XD If you want you can write a pingback response post detailing your experiences! I’ll link to it 🙂
In the meantime, check out Dave’s (from davesrecordreviews!) new song, Ogdy! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mevfL_F_wtg It’s epic, I really think you’ll enjoy it, especially if you’re into metal. It’s more on the black/death metal side, part of a new project called Nailgrinder.
And finally, I’d strongly suggest you have a look at Haster’s new music video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSGgqUAvKuw XD
Have an awesome day!