One of the highlights of my week is teaching bridge to the senior citizens at the community center. Not that I wasn’t overwhelmed, facing twenty novices on the first day of class. One of my students further frightened me by saying, “We can’t see, we can’t hear and we don’t know how to play cards.”

She was joking of course. We only had one hearing aid failure during the eight-week course and with the large print cards we were using, I’m sure my hand was visible from outer space. As for card sense, these students had it in spades. They just weren’t familiar with bridge.

Those first classes were hectic, as I hopped from table to table to answer questions. Bridge is not an easy game to learn. Just sorting and holding thirteen cards can be a challenge. I passed out cheat sheets containing the fundamentals of bridge. Then I’d sit at a table that was short one player.

The first group I played with said they didn’t know anything about bridge. On a hunch, I asked them if they had ever played bid whist. It turned out they had grown up playing whist. I told them bridge was almost exactly like bid whist, except that in no-trump you had to bid “uptown” ” you couldn’t bid “downtown” and turn your deuces into aces. This clicked for them and they started bidding and playing like veterans.

Bridge wasn’t the only game being played at the community center. The Forest Park Senior Citizen’s club members were playing all sorts of card games. Afterwards, they have coffee and pastries and sometimes a free lunch. The atmosphere is so pleasant I can’t wait to retire.

As for the bridge players, some quickly caught on, while others became discouraged. We were down to a core group of twelve students before long. One of the most colorful players was Irene, who is 97 years old. She is such a card sharp. If you were going to play Texas Hold ‘Em with Irene, you might as well bring the deed to your house.

All the students made steady improvement, though and there were fewer questions for me to answer. One morning as I was arriving for class, it occurred to me that I wasn’t a very good bridge player and the students would soon surpass the teacher. I didn’t realize they were already about to leave me in the dust.

I made a confident bid of five clubs against Irene and her partner. Irene doubled my bid. I hadn’t gotten around to teaching the class to double the penalties against bids. Somehow they had learned it from books like “Bridge for Dummies.” I was floored ” then humiliated as the opponents put us down by 300 points.

I will probably suffer more painful lessons in the weeks to come. But it’s been so gratifying to see seniors learning a new game, I wouldn’t mind teaching another class in the spring. At the end of one of our sessions, I heard the words every bridge teacher longs for, “Why don’t we get together and play at one of our houses?” Hey, if you promise to go easy on me, I’ll bring the snacks.

John Rice

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball...