If in the past year you played solitaire, even a single game, you wasted that time. Take it from me: I played many hands of the game and have nothing to show for the effort. Granted, I had no Zoom schooling sessions to enforce, no children to parent, no job to perform remotely. I did work, but at a studio with strictly enforced Covid-19 protocols, along with a large crew who had all been bubbled for the duration of the pandemic.
During a time of lockdowns, quarantines and social distancing, solitaire seemed like a harmless enterprise, a salve for the mind and the hands, a safety valve that meant having something to do. The deck of cards was right there on the table, and, without thinking, my hands would take up that file of 52 to riff and shuffle and cut. A game would be dealt—to myself, by myself—in a line of seven cards with a growing pile of face-downs. The cards in my hand were revealed in threes, and the blacks were played on the reds, and so on, and an hour or so would pass. I would play more solitaire later in the day or the next morning.
I never cheated to win; winning wasn’t the point. Getting close was good enough, and there was always another game, so why not deal it out? I might win this time. And what else was there to do?
Actually, there was plenty to do! Damn! There was a sink to clean out and a dishwasher to empty. Laundry to sort. Rice to put in the cooker with the timer set for breakfast. Letters I could have written and the typewriter and stationery to do it. Books I had packed in a suitcase were set on a reading stack, unread, even though I was, sort of, always reading one of them. There were floor exercises and yoga stretches to do. I have kids to talk to when they are available. I have business partners to contact. I have friends who are hilarious and interesting. I have scenes to study and work to prepare. I have stories in my head—and I tell stories for a living—that could have been sketched out, noted, outlined. I could have re-watched “Chernobyl” on HBO!
I did get around to doing many of those things. I lived up to most of my responsibilities and explored a few creative recesses inside my thick head. But those hands of solitaire were accumulated minutes wasted by hoping that a red six would come up or a king would be turned so I could fill an empty column. What didn’t I do instead?