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If Cashier Is Cro-Magnon, Play Paper

Monday, June 18, 2007

We're not sure how this will affect the time it takes to pay for your order, but the latest gimmick from California Tortilla caught our eye. This Wednesday, customers at the Rockville-based fast-food chain are invited to challenge cashiers to an instant game of rock, paper, scissors. Customers who win get a dollar off their meal.

Dreams of victory sent us to the Web site of the World Rock Paper Scissors Society (slogan: "Serving the needs of decision makers since 1918") to study a little strategy. What we learned at http://www.worldrps.com is that, just as in any negotiation, the key to winning is successfully sizing up your opponent. The RPS tips:

Rock is "the most aggressive throw," said the site, evoking "fist fights . . . rugged boulders and the stone ax of the caveman." So if your cashier-opponent looks like the knuckle-dragging type, the best strategy is to play paper. (Paper, you recall, wraps rock; rock smashes scissors; scissors cut paper.)

This is clever, because paper traditionally feels wimpy; the RPS gurus say that's because the open-palm gesture is a common a sign of friendship or even surrender. But, the site says, there is a subtle power in the symbolic intellectualism of paper, "the victory of modern culture over barbarism." A cashier with a telling aura of intellectual superiority -- and we'd be interested in meeting that cashier -- could be defeated by a play of scissors.

The typical scissors player, the site says, is crafty, clever, a user of tools. Pointed, dangerous scissors also appeal to someone whose feelings of aggression are "controlled, contained, re-channeled into something constructive" and who is capable of "a well-planned outflanking maneuver."

You could beat the scissors-playing cashier with rock. It might be smarter to just hire her.

-- Nancy Szokan

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