Story 12 – The Rubik’s Cube
As a child of the 1980′s, I spent many hours trying to solve the Rubik’s cube. I confess, that I once even pealed the stickers off, took it to my parents and told them I had solved one side. My father explained that if the stickers were removed, it would be impossible to solve. After I understood why, I began to understand how the Rubik’s Cube worked.
My grandmother purchased a book that explained step by step, how to solve the cube. For several weekends when I was in the fourth grade, we’d get together on Saturday mornings, and work through the book. Quickly, I began to memorize the sequence of steps and it wasn’t long before I could solve it on my own. Of course, I had to show off my new talent to my classmates, and I remember one day during recess, I solved the Rubik’s Cube in 53 seconds. That is not a typo. Nor is it any kind of record. For comparison, the world record is under seven seconds.
I never forgot how to solve the Rubik’s Cube. In fact, I’ve taught my brother, college roommates and others (and possibly you) how to solve it over the years. I’ll often walk through a store and find one on a shelf that has been “messed up.” A few times, I’ve picked it up, solved in, once even to a small crowd that gathered around and applauded when I finished it.
While on a bus at Disney World a few years ago, a teenaged kid pulled a Rubik’s Cube out of his pocket. We began talking about the solution he used to solve it and the one I used. Our conversation lasted about forty-five minutes and it was probably the nerdiest conversation I have ever had. But it was fun to learn a different way to solve the cube than the one I have always used.
After the success of the Rubik’s Cube came other puzzles, including a 4x4x4 cube. I had one and was working to solve it on my own, without the solution book. One day in the fifth grade, as the day was beginning to wind down, I remember having one of those aha moments where I thought I had figured out a way to solve it. I could not wait until after school to try it out and see if it worked. A classmate snatched the cube from me, and tossed it to my sister. The next thing I know, my it was broken into dozens of pieces. For twenty-five years, I wondered if the solution I had come up with in the fifth grade would really work. Finally about three years ago, I found one on eBay. When it arrived, I immediately tested that idea and it didn’t take long for me to realize that the idea I had in the fifth grade wouldn’t work. But the solution I later found was very similar to the solution the kid on the bus had used.
The Rubik’s Cube is enjoyable to me, not because it’s something unique that most people cannot do, but because of the great memories of sitting with my grandmother as an eleven year old boy. That, along with clearing the banana level on Ms. PacMan, makes me feel like a kid again.