What does it take to get a guy in his late 30s, a woman in her late 40s and a man in his early 60s practically thrown out of the august Upper East Side town house of the Society of Illustrators? Just hand them a phone loaded with the uproarious, ingenious game Draw Something.
There we were on a Saturday afternoon — I was with friends from Vermont who were in town scouting locations for their July wedding. After a pleasant brunch upstairs, we were lingering in the front hall when it occurred to me that since we were, after all, inside the Society of Illustrators, playing Draw Something would be particularly apt.
Draw Something is essentially a cooperative electronic version of the board game Pictionary. It was developed by Omgpop, a New York company that was sold in March to Zynga for $180 million. It has free and paid versions.
You play with another person — a Facebook friend or, if you prefer, a stranger. The game presents a selection of three words, and you have to draw something on the screen of your Android device or iPhone that will allow the other player, who might be on the other side of the world, to guess the word, be it macaroni, Macarena or meathead.
I hope you can understand why the lobby of the Society of Illustrators — home of Rockwells and Hirschfelds — would be a perfect place to play this game. I whipped out my iPhone and explained it to my friend Kristina, the bride-to-be.
First I showed her a game in which I had to draw watch. We saw a circle appear on the screen, then a little 12 at the top and a 6 at the bottom, then little arrows pointing at the numbers. Pretty straightforward.
While we were geeking out near the postcard rack, through a glass door just a few feet away, dozens of art students and professionals were trying to watch a serious lecture about principles of animation.
But we paid no attention. On the phone, we could see a female shape appear, then musical notes coming out of her mouth, and then the figure holding a big, yellow, cuplike object.
"Grammys!" Kristina barked, a bit too loudly. "Oh, this is cool."
A chorus of "Shhh!" descended on us from several society employees in the lobby. A few people in the back of the lecture hall turned to look through the glass doors.
"OK," I said softly to Kristina. "Now it's your turn to draw." Steve, the groom-to-be, had now joined us huddled over the phone. The choices were cute, ocean and Yankees.
"I can do Yankees," Kristina said. Steve chimed in, "Yeah, just do a shirt with some pinstripes and a bat or something." Everything was fine until she started trying to draw the New York Yankees logo, which in Kristina's hands looked like a small octopus. I'll admit I started to snicker.
"No, no, no," Steve chortled. "You've got to get the Y coming down through the N." Kristina giggled to herself quite gleefully as she attempted to erase some of the pinstripes to make room for the octopus' extending tentacles.
"Shhhh!" Society staff members were starting to glower. We were on the verge of disturbing the lecture.
"OK, one more," I attempted to whisper. "I'll do it."
I began to try to draw crayon as I realized that most of the lobby was paying at least some attention to the three not-entirely-young people vainly attempting to control their laughter over a phone.
With trembling hands and my artistic incompetence, I started to trace a sort of diagonal oblong shape that ended up not entirely symmetrical. Kristina, who by now had her hand clamped over her mouth, muttered, "Uh — "
I changed my color to a sort of orange-red and started to fill in the blotchy, drooping oblong. It might have been the most pathetic illustration ever committed.
"You know, Seth," Steve put in, with deadpan delivery. "That doesn't really look like a crayon, if you know what I mean."
Kristina and I knew exactly what he meant, and we burst out in uncontrollable gales. Tears were happening. Half the lecture hall was looking back through the glass doors. With heaving shoulders and general waves of apology, the three of us instinctively lurched toward the front door because we knew what was coming.
Out on the sidewalk, as we tried to collect ourselves, Steve said, "That's the best game I've ever seen." I wasn't inclined to disagree.
Later that evening, Kristina and Steve decided to hold their wedding at the Society of Illustrators.
If they will have us.