Bridge too far

It began innocently enough. At a gathering shortly after I stopped working, I overheard a friend mentioning that another friend had said she was going to learn bridge in order to have something to do in the nursing home.

When I got home, I pondered the wisdom of this idea. My only experience with bridge was as a child listening to the horrific arguments of my parents after an evening of alleged play. It seemed to me to be a game full of mystery that would bring out the worst competitive side of a person. Not only that, but you had to play it with a partner!

Anyway, in a blind leap of faith, I signed up for classes offered through the Whitehorse Bridge Club. I did this solo, as I was not about to risk any of the peace we are privileged to enjoy in my marriage. 

The innocence continued throughout the odyssey of the lessons. For several months, I attended classes in the basement of Whitehorse Elementary School. The teacher was thoroughly engaging and my classmates seemed to be mostly at my level.

The game is indeed complicated. You have to learn how to evaluate your hand, you have to count, and you have to remember the count. You have to count your hand again, depending on what your partner does – and remember that new total, too.

Bidding is like a new language, with strange protocols based on the counting and the suits in your hand. There are multiple levels and weird conventions, which you should try to remember and apply.

Then the play itself is full of strategy. And counting. And remembering what has been played. And trying to figure out what remains. And where the key cards might be. And. And. And…. My head often felt like it was exploding, even though it was great exercise for the brain. At least, that’s what I understand. It definitely isn’t much exercise for the rest of the body, other than the part that does the sitting and the hands that do the shuffling, dealing, and playing the cards.

Overall, I had a great time learning this new game – I also met new people and I made at least one new good friend.

After graduation, I started attending the Tuesday night “backroom sessions” at the Golden Age Society. The serious duplicate bridge club games were too far advanced for me, and I liked the camaraderie and informality of the small group of beginners that would meet at the same time – and end an hour earlier.

It was so much fun, in fact, that a number of us decided to set up Friday afternoon sessions. A small group of us gather to play in the Yukon Government Main Administration Building (MAB) cafeteria. We have maintained our informality and fun throughout, and treat the sessions as learning opportunities. We engage in heated discussions about what could have been done differently, but with respect and cordiality – unless we are arguing with ourselves. For example, I have had to call myself an idiot many times – and myself will always like to argue with that kind of statement.

So that is Friday afternoon. And Tuesday night.

Then a friend and I decided to sign up as spares for the contract bridge sessions that now take over the MAB cafeteria on Wednesday afternoons. A close friend set up a bridge session on Sundays, with just a few friends and lots of time to play and talk.

That meant Friday afternoons, Tuesday nights, Wednesday afternoons and Sunday afternoons were booked, plus the occasional fun learning weekend tournament. I even ventured into the “big persons” room to try my hand at the aforementioned duplicate bridge. It is really humbling to realize how much more there is to learn and to apply.

It took me a while, but eventually I realized I had reached the point of a “bridge too far”. I was playing more days of the week than not! As much as I enjoyed it, I needed to make room for other things— like time with my husband, who was rapidly becoming a bridge widower.

So for now, I have settled on Friday afternoons, and serving as a spare when I can. As with any other language, I will not get very good this way, but I like leaving my competitive side dormant – or reserved for my hockey pool.

And at the very least I can now play bridge at the nursing home, should/when the need arise.

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