Winning Deals

I guess I have what you might call a chronic cough at this point, even though I hope that when the stupid tumor pushing on my airway shrinks, it will be a thing of the past. But when I am in public–say, on the train–I become particularly aware of my coughing, and the more I try to suppress it, the worse it gets. Some people give me sympathetic looks, and during the evening commute, sometimes middle-aged women offer me cough drops. But plenty of people give me dirty looks and others have even gotten up and moved away from me.

Just being on the train a lot has made me spend extra time on my iPhone, which lead me to a wonderful discovery… I can distract myself out of most coughing fits by playing games.  Thank you, Solitaire. Focusing on the fake cards is usually enough to calm my coughing and probably bring my public heath-hazard estimate down from “probably the plague” to “maybe a cold.”

Solitaire is a good distraction. This particular version looks like the one that used to come standard with Windows so you’d have something to do while you waited for the internet to dial. I don’t remember if this was possible with the old computer version, but my iPhone Solitaire allows you to adjust the percentage of winning deals. Did you catch that? The cards can be dealt randomly, or they can be dealt to ensure it is possible to win. When I discovered this, I went ahead and cranked “winning deals” to 100%. I also changed the deck of cards to one that features a kitten.

Turns out, I’m not that good at Solitaire, because sometimes I still don’t win and I re-deal the cards without even trying to finish the hand I started. I thought about that for a while. Am I the kind of person that quits, just so I can start over and come out ahead and watch the animated cards dance? Am I so lazy that even when I know I can win a game, I would rather quit and start over than figure out how to win the hand I’ve been dealt?

I thought about this for a while, influenced no doubt by a few of my overly-competitive loved ones. A friend once told me that even if I wanted to just play horseshoes or go bowling for the fun of it, it was an insult to him, as my competitor, if I wasn’t trying my hardest. My darling husband, when I first proposed the idea that maybe sports was more about having fun than winning, countered that “it’s not fun if you lose all the time.” I was once accused of having “no mental fortitude” for giving up on one of those metal puzzles that are hard to take apart and asking how to do it before I left. This is why I thought so much about changing the odds of Solitaire and what that said about me.

I argued, with myself, that if Solitare is a metaphor for life, you should not be allowed to set it to winning deals. That you should not expect to be set up for success, and that some hands are just not winnable, and a random deal is much more reflective of the world around us. But then I realized that there is no real consequence for hitting “new game” on iPhone cards. I can afford to lose, and I can afford to win the easy way, and all I’m really trying to do is distract myself from coughing.

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