I direct a duplicate bridge game once a week. To make me sound important, I am an American Contract Bridge League certified director. That fancy name doesn't mean much. Last week, however, the other directors were out of town, and I had to direct three games.
Directing three games added to the time I spend at the News means I worked over 30 hours last week. I mention this because if you noticed anything really peculiar in the paper last week, it was probably my fault. I find that as I am getting older, the harder it is for me to multi-task. I like to do one thing and finish it before I go on to another. If I don't, I am liable to burn a pot of peas or something else foolish because I am trying to do too many things at one time.
But playing bridge is good for everyone and especially me and those of us who have reached a certain age. Like walking is good exercise for the body, playing bridge is exercise for the mind. It keeps the mind in gear and helps to prevent those lapses in memory we sometimes attribute to old timers.
Duplicate bridge is very similar to contract bridge which many of you play when you play with your friends in one of the many informal clubs which meet in members' homes monthly. But there are some differences.
You can come without a partner and will be guaranteed someone to play with. If there is no other free player, the director will play with you. Most people, however, come with a partner.
With few exceptions, the game is never canceled. You can count on us to be there.
You do have to pay, but it only costs $5, which is not much for three or four hours of entertainment. And we'll give you a free play for the second time you join us. Cheaper than a movie. And you can receive a printout of how you scored on each hand and go on-line to ACBL.org to get the game results and see what everyone else did with the hands.
The hands are scored on a computer, and you get the results of the game within one minute of the final hand being played.
If you win, you win points if you are a member of ACBL, but you do not have to be a member to play.
Everyone plays the same hands at sometime during the game. Both the hands and the people follow a set movement. That's my job. So you can see what everyone else has done with a hand that puzzles you.
We meet friends and chat and there are refreshments. That's also my job. A group usually goes out to eat before or after a game. You can't, however, chat about the hands or go to another table to ask someone for help.
If you only play in women's groups, you may be surprised that at duplicate games that many of the players are men.
If you can't play bridge but always wanted to know something about the game, the ACBL website (acbl.org) has free learn to play software. Also our club has a teacher with free ACBL workbooks and information who would be glad to come and help your group (again free).
The ACBL also has a special program for students. There are work books and instructions for students and special games for them, again also free. In many states, the ACBL has special programs in both middle and high schools. They also name a King of Bridge each year for the student who earns the most points in that year.
Most of us who play now learned to play in college when someone in the dorm was always looking for a fourth for bridge. I know the popularity of card games is declining. Young people are no longer interested in such a mundane occupation when they can entertain themselves with computer games. But they miss the camaraderie of doing things with and competing against warm-blooded humans.
I look forward to playing bridge with my regular partner on Friday mornings. It is a time for me to set aside whatever is pressing and concentrate on using my brain and seeing if I can do better than I did last week. It's an oasis of quiet concentration in the midst of the hustle and bustle of my life.
Playing bridge offers camaraderie, exercise for the brain and lots of entertainment. I hope some of you younger people join us before we bridge players become extinct.
Paula Travis is a Newton County resident and retired schoolteacher. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.