I have been playing bridge since 2005. I mentioned to my mother-in-law that I would like to learn the game, and shortly thereafter I was invited to substitute in the Wednesday night game at Luther Acres, the retirement village in which she lived. As it happened, she was the organizer for the Wednesday night group. I bought “Bridge For Dummies” and proceeded to read it. After four years I am still reading it.
I suppose I didn’t stumble too badly, although I felt really stupid by the time that first evening was over. All I could do was hold the cards and follow suit. I also was the dummy in more ways than one. Even though my mother-in-law has been gone for three years, I have been invited to “substitute” almost every week since then.
Bridge is a very humbling game. Whenever I think I am beginning to get the hang of it, I run up against reality. Experts tell me one never stops learning about the game, and I believe them. I read the daily bridge column in the newspaper, and about half the time I can’t figure out what in the world the columnist is talking about.
It strikes me that the game is a metaphor for life. One has to play the cards one is dealt, and everyone except your partner is out to get you. Even when you are in command of the hand, your partner turns out to be a dummy, and just sits there looking at you. To be fair, half the time you treat him the same way
No matter what grand strategy you and your partner come up with, the other guys often have a grander strategy to set you back. Huge successes are very rare, and most of the time you feel pretty good if all you do is muddle through.
Occasionally you play a pretty good game even with so-so cards, and sometimes you get good cards and blow the whole hand. As I said, it’s like life.
But as with most metaphors, you can’t carry it too far. The only emotion that bridge allows is cooperation with your partner, and cut-throat competition with everyone else, and sometimes forgiveness at the end of the evening. There is no room for the finer emotions of love, altruism, even friendship. And of course, in life you don’t get a new deal when the game ends.