Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Bridging the age gap

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A delightful story I read in a Readers Digest concerned a rail commuter en-route to New York who was sitting next to a professional bridge player. The traveller took the opportunity to tell the bridge expert about a hand of bridge he had been dealt the night before and how he had acted upon it. He particularly wanted to know had he played the hand correctly, or should he have represented it differently.

The bridge man considered the question and then allowed that indeed the hand had been played exactly as it should have been. A few days later our man got an account from the bridge expert for $250.

The next day the commuter found himself sitting next to a lawyer so he relayed the story about the information he had asked for and the subsequent invoice. “Was he liable to pay the bill?” he wanted to know. The lawyer said that he was. He knew the bridge man was a professional, he had sought his advice and therefore the payment was owed.

Next day he got a bill for $250 from the lawyer.

I tell this anecdote simply as a lead in to confessing that I used to play bridge

Once you think you have learnt the game you are coerced into to joining the local bridge club in Villa Street. The internal walls of their clubrooms are marked North, South, East and West and they really take the game seriously. Gold leafed honours boards adorn the hallowed hallways and subjects other than the finer points of bridge are not up for discussion. 

There was no room for gossip.

And they use a whole new language. They have stamens, singletons and doubletons and pre-empt bids and I am accused of being an interposer. My head is spinning - “Learn from your mistakes” was a common piece of advice - and I made plenty - and suddenly I’m told I am “vulnerable,” though I hadn’t a clue why.

And it was not as though you could hide your incompetence. You move around the room travelling with the east of your west (north and south remain seated) and your progress is plotted by a cunning computer that cleverly calculates your score. The next week they post the outcome on the door so all the world can see that you came last equal. Your mortified partner, whom you unwittingly dragged down with you, is desperately looking for someone else to play with.

The trouble with the bridge exponents is that they have never moved on. The poker players now have their poker machines; clever pieces of electronic wizardry tucked away in neon caverns with spinning wheels that can relieve you of your money in comparative anonymity. But the bridge fraternity still use the fifty-two piece cardboard card set that should have been phased out with the Gulbransen radio and the DC 3.

Bridge players will often tell you they’ve taken on the game to slow down the ageing process and perhaps it works. I was talking to a bridge player other day who is nearly 90 and he says he doesn’t need glasses.

He drinks right out of the bottle.

“If you want to know how old a woman is, ask her sister-in-law.” - Ed Howe’ 


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