If you played solitaire last year, even just one game, you wasted that time. Believe me: I played many hands of the game and I have nothing to show for the effort. Of course, he had no school Zoom sessions to enforce, he had no children for the parents, he had no work to do remotely. I did work, but in a study with strictly enforced Covid-19 protocols, along with a great team that had been bubbling up during the pandemic.
During a time of lockdowns, quarantines, and social distancing, the loner seemed like a harmless enterprise, a balm for the mind and hands, a safety valve that meant having something do. The deck of cards was right there on the table and, without thinking, my hands would grab that 52 file to riff, shuffle, and slice. A game would be dealt, for me, by myself, in a line of seven cards with a growing pile face down. The cards in my hand were revealed three at a time, and black was played with red, and so on, and an hour or so passed. He would play more solitaire later in the day or the next morning.
I never cheated to win; winning was not the point. Getting close was good enough, and there was always another game, so why not split it up? I could win this time. And what else could I do?
In fact, there was a lot to do! Dammit! There was a sink to clean and a dishwasher to empty. Laundry to sort. Rice to put in the pot with the timer set for breakfast. Letters you could have written and the typewriter and stationery to do it. The books he had packed in a suitcase were placed in a reading pile, unread, even though, in a way, he was always reading one of them. There were floor exercises and yoga stretches to do. I have children to talk to when they are available. I have business partners to contact. I have fun and interesting friends. I have scenes to study and work to prepare. I have stories in my head, and I tell them for a living, that could have been sketched, annotated, outlined. I could have seen “Chernobyl” again on HBO!
I have stories in my head that could have been sketched, annotated, sketched.
I got to do a lot of those things. I lived up to most of my responsibilities and explored some creative recesses within my thick head. But those solitaire hands piled up wasted minutes waiting for a red six to roll or a king to convert so they could fill an empty column. What do not I do instead?
Covid-19 has taught us that life and health are precarious, that the smallest part of our physical world, like a virus, can rob us of vitality, community, family and purpose, whether we get sick or not. This pandemic affected us all and cost us a lot, too much. Our time is limited and finite. The lonely man squanders the precious. Don’t ever play solitaire again.
But cribbage? With my son, who can I rarely beat? Any moment!
-Mister. Hanks is an actor, screenwriter, producer, and director. He is the author of “Uncommon Type: Some Stories”.
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