You could say I’ve got it in Spades
It was the summer of 1986 and I was 15 years old.
My roommate and I sat in our dorm room at the Mississippi University for Women, taking a break after classes at Governor’s School. The three-week summer program was founded by former Gov. William Winter to give students involved in certain high school programs an opportunity to earn college credits and learn some presentation skills.
We’d had a full couple of days so far, and were eager for a diversion that did not involve taking tests and cramming new information into our heads.
My roomie’s name and hometown have been unfortunately lost to my poor memory files, though I can still see his coffee-colored complexion and mop of jet black hair, and hear his undoubtedly Mississippi accent asking another student why he had expected him to have a British-Indian sing-song sound to his voice. I’ll call him M for this account, since it’s as good a moniker as any.
M was shuffling a deck of cards as I flipped through a magazine and asked me if I knew how to play the game of Spades. I did not.
Quickly, he explained it to me, and we played a few mock hands until I felt I understood.
He called down the hallway for any comers to take us on — Spades is played with four players, two per team — and a handful of bored teens poured into our room. We played on a side table pulled to the room’s center and within a few minutes had discovered we were an incredible team, M and I. We picked up on subtle, unspoken clues and were daring and cutthroat in our play.
One by one, any team who challenged us was cast to the wayside as we plowed through victoriously again and again, taking and defeating all, without fail. A few times we met “worthy opponents” who gave us a scare, but — surprisingly — M and I never lost the entire duration of the school.
We played every afternoon or evening without fail, save for the few days I missed due to a death in the family. Every day, every game, I was amazed that we never lost.
I’ve played Spades a lot since that summer and have always done fairly well, but never like that. My brother-in-law and I have a similar chemistry playing the game, but other family members quit playing with us because we liked to play fast and aggressively. We never played outside the rules, not even bending them, but always going for maximum points, maximum effect. He and I did not always win, however, but we enjoyed the game.
Now when I play, it’s on my smartphone and I win about as many as I lose. A computer-generated partner is nowhere near as good as a human one. Nothing that’s only computer-generated, no matter how smart or how entertaining, is as good as one-on-one interaction with a fellow human being.
I think so many people in first-world countries, i.e. the United States of America, have forgotten this.
I love technology. I enjoy the conveniences of my phone, laptop, tablet, desktop computer and internet-connected televisions. Sometimes when I get home after work, all I want to do is play games on my phone, or watch videos, TV shows or movies. I want to disconnect my brain and do something different. That’s fine, until I realize I’ve been working before a computer screen most of the day already. Not so different.
While I do enjoy this, what I always enjoy more on those evenings is having conversations with my wife and daughter. Even if it’s about something on a screen.
Even as I recall the days of relentless winning at a card game, I understand that what I enjoyed so much was not the fact that we didn’t lose — it was the fun and friendship of interaction with other boys my age who had similar interests.
I have shared victories and loss with so many over my lifetime so far, and I know there will be more of both to come. For as long as I breathe, I will continue to have an interest in other people — their stories, their struggles, their victories.
In fact, you could say I have that interest in spades.
Brett Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 601-265-5307.