I thought, "Screw it; it's just that dream again," and hopped on the down escalator, hoping I was right. I still feel the escalator stairs stinging the soles of my bare feet, and I wondered if the cowcatcher at the bottom would rip my toes off or worse.
I'm getting better as I age. Time was I would discover my nakedness while frantically searching for the room where my Advanced Calculus exam was being conducted, thinking, "How I could have missed an entire semester of classes?" Now when the stress dream kicks in, I just wonder what happened to the pants where I put my plane ticket.
I expected when I retired that stress would wither to a curious artifact of a prior life. Nope. Here is an eternal principle: stress expands to fill the emotional space available.
Last week I flew to Robinsonville, Mississippi, which is a suburb of Clack and is usually called Tunica, hard by the Mississippi River. Permanent population about 6, plus the droves visiting the ten gambling houses perched by the levee.
Of course, you can't fly to Robinsonville, with or without clothing. You have to fly to Memphis, Tennessee and drive your rented Toyota Yaris 40 miles south on US 61. The "US" designation on the route number is surely aspirational, since everyone from the area speaks only Clack. Flying and driving, however, give me no anxiety. I'm at peace with those things.
I went to Tunica/Robinsonville-near-Clack to play cards. Duplicate bridge, specifically. I took up bridge when I retired, hoping to ease the stress that I expected never again to encounter. Just in case.
In due time, I got pretty good at bridge, in a newcomer sort of way. It's a demanding game, and I dreamed often of dealing naked. But I progressed faster than whatever norm applies, and the dreams subsided That's how I knew I no longer had enough stress in my life. So I volunteered to teach newbies how to play the game. And to write a blog for them. (If you have nothing better to do in life, the blog is here.)
Teaching is a good way to learn. You need only be a lesson or so ahead of your students, and you can fake the rest. While you explain timeless principles, those principles become gouged a little deeper in your own grey matter. In theory.
Teaching's fine, but writing it all down in public raises stress to a new level. It's not just ambitious newcomers who read the blog, but also players with the decades of experience that I lack.
So there I was in Robinsonville, playing the game and collecting a new bridge credential that I pretend does not matter to me. That, I think, should give me the confidence to wear clothes all the way home.
When I got smugly home to beautiful Tampa Bay, I fired off a blog article on the subtleties of a peculiar bridge hand that appeared at the tournament:
♥ A J 10 9 5 4
♦ A Q J 10 9 7
(I just did that to show you I could.)
I explained on-line that the hand should be bid in a certain way to take advantage of the lack of black cards. Great lesson for new players. QED.
If bridge players share a common trait, it is the criticism gene. So when I recommend Doubling over 1 Club, there is always someone to argue that the Unusual 2 No Trump would have been a superior tactic. The fact she was right made matters all the worse.
So here I am waking up on a Memphis Airport escalator again, starkers. I'd take up checkers, but I have a bridge blog installment due Saturday.