Monopoly, Shelter Island Style

Monopoly, the kids’ game from Hasbro that first introduced all of us to money anxiety, desperate bargaining and threats, has dropped one of its classic tokens for a new one. The flat iron has now been replaced by a cat. So the new token set is an antiquated race car, a thimble, a shoe-boot without laces, a terrier, a battleship, a top hat, a wooden wheelbarrow, and now a cat. It makes me wonder how they chose the old tokens in the first place. The game came out in 1934, so the tokens were current items. I wonder why they chose to replace the flat iron? Seems like it would be more politically correct to replace the battleship.

Someone told me the newest version has a debit card instead of paper money.

But let’s be real—if you play Monopoly, you gotta go old school:

First, nobody knows all the rules. But everybody knows the basic ones, plus maybe one of the “in the event of” rules. For instance, I was the one who knew that if you rolled doubles three times in a row, you got out of jail. Somebody takes charge of setting up the game. If you saw that the Chance and Community Chest cards were already separated with rubber bands from the previous game, you were playing with an anally retentive person who was not going to let anybody slide on the rent. The person who wanted to be the banker was going to, at some point in the game, hit the board so that all the money tucked under the side of the board would go akimbo and in the process of straightening it up, a few of those bills were going to slide onto their lap for emergency back-up.

The game is so much fun in the beginning. Trying to get matching colors of property titles. Then you start paying each other rent and that’s fun, too. Things start getting a little tense when somebody owns all four railroads and now you have to pay $200 bucks if you land on one. Then the anxieties start to filter in….“Please God, don’t let me land on Boardwalk.” If you do land on Boardwalk and can’t make the rent, you bend the rules and borrow from other players—unless the Anal Player is there and points out that borrowing to pay the rent is verboten! You might try to work out a payment plan with the Boardwalk owner, like if they give you the next rotation on the board to collect enough of your own rents to pay them by the time you get back to Boardwalk, you’ll pay $100 extra. This works too, unless, again, you have that one Anal Player who insists on playing by the rules.

If you play the game by the rules, it’s all over but the crying in two hours.

If you play with the soft, bendy rules, the game goes on until the beer and chips run out—about six hours. This is more fun because of the drama. There’s crying, begging, pleading, rapture, avaricious glee, swearing, cursing, pinching and slaps…. I once offered to sleep with a guy if he let off the rent from the New York block where he had built hotels. He said it didn’t count since we were married, the lousy Scrooge—he’d need more, so I had to promise a back rub and to make his favorite lasagna. I was desperate, so I agreed. Who knew Monopoly would be the thing to make a fallen woman of me….

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