Bridging the Gap

28 Jan

Card games are a universal social ritual, which seem to punctuate transitions through life. When we are young children, we learn object recognition by playing Pairs and Snap. At primary school we collect and exchange cards like a currency. In our teens we formulate friendships and pass the time between lessons with Rummy and the delightfully named Sh*thead. When we move into our twenties and thirties, cards become an evening event with poker chips and, in my hubby’s case at least, a glass or two of Johnny Walker.

Then, at some point in later life people learn how to play Bridge. I’m not sure if Bridge is the final rite of passage into retirement, but it would seem so if yesterday’s tournament is anything to go by.

A colleague of mine who I volunteer with was in desperate need of some helpers to assist with an international Bridge tournament, from which a donation was being made to her Girl Guides group. I was happy to go along – both to help out a colleague, as well as having a new experience. The beauty of not working is that you can say “yes” to so many more things, without worrying about how exhausted you are going to be at the end of the day! I was reassured that knowing absolutely nothing about Bridge wouldn’t be a hindrance, so I hopped on the bus to the plush hotel where the event was taking place.

The event was being run by a team of Americans who travel around the world managing different tournaments (and get paid to do this. Clearly these Sexagenarians are onto something here.) Candy was a slim lady from Virginia who probably spends her days off playing badminton and wearing sweaters draped over her shoulders. Jack was a practical, jolly fellow with a moustache who wouldn’t have looked out of place in a hardware store, advising people on the best varnish to go for to protect their porch benches in the winter months.

My surreptitious papping of the focused Bridge players in action

Jack talked me through what I needed to do. The game was played by four people, and at the end of each round, the East and West people would move to the next table, whilst the North and South remained seated. I had to ensure that I watched for the movement to know when to collect the scorecards. It was important to be prompt, as I should not risk another game being completed and being left with two scorecards for different rounds. I would know if the scorecards would be complete as they would be face down, with one corner folded back. Clearly Bridge is a game of rituals.

Bridge: the world's most complicated card game. No idea what this is for!

For the first round I felt as if I carried the responsibility of the success of the entire tournament. Heck, maybe these people’s lives! If I didn’t collect those scorecards fast enough the whole event would come crashing down! There would be international outcry! These people may never play Bridge again because of “The Bermuda Incident”! After the first round however I realised that it would be quite impossible to cause a catastrophe and that actually a six year old could manage the scorecard collection adequately. But my initial fear was compounded by how SERIOUSLY people were taking the game. I’d presumed that, like the card games I’d played throughout life, this would primarily be a sociable event. People would chat to the new East and West pairs that joined their table – finding out where they were from, how long they had been playing, comparing lists of ailments – that sort of thing. Given the age of the majority of the players I made the assumption that playing Bridge was almost secondary to the opportunity of meeting new people and companions. But, oh no! This was a competition! As I went along to collect the scorecards there was complete silence on the tables, faces fixed in concentration. If I had to reach across the table to collect the card it would feel like I’d just burped in the middle of a prayer in church.

I suspect that my 60 year old self would only have been this serious had there been a $1,000,000 prize. (Otherwise she’d have opted for Bingo where she could have a chat and a Martini.) But I admired their ability to concentrate on playing a complex card game for almost 4 hours, without constantly checking Facebook on their iPhone or looking at their emails. That’s something that my generation isn’t so good at. I do wonder, when the times comes, will we have the patience to focus on learning Bridge? Or will the rituals of Bridge have been replaced with a quick and easy electronic game we can do whilst watching the TV? Regardless, I now have a newfound respect for Bridge players!

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3 Responses to “Bridging the Gap”

  1. Samantha Sparrow 28 January, 2011 at 8:58 am #

    You DO NOT have to be 60 year olds to enjoy a chat and a martini at the bingo!!! 🙂

  2. Cathy Hollands 28 January, 2011 at 9:07 am #

    I went to the bingo as part of my hen do – it was hilarious! We were all cheering when they called ’69’ heehee and we got 2 bottles of wine free x x

    • suscatty 28 January, 2011 at 9:20 am #

      It’s true, Bingo translates to all stages of life! The best language lessons at school were when you got to play Bingo to practise numbers! Sadly there was no option of a Martini during Year 11 Spanish though. x

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