By Annabel Monaghan
I’ve come to accept the fact that I should never say “never.” In fact, as I get older, it seems that every time I shun some activity with the words “I’d never,” I immediately go ahead and do it. Examples include getting my fourth grader his own phone, leaving my kids alone overnight, and buying a Happy Meal. Also, dark nail polish and platform sneakers. To really drive my point home: moments ago I agreed to a gruesome volunteer job that I swore I would never take again. I’m probably days away from getting a face tattoo.
Among my major “nevers” is playing games on my phone. I’ve devoted hours to nevering this never: Why are so many of my smart, tax-paying friends sending me requests to play Candy Crush in the middle of the day? I have things to do and friends to see. I’m a person who is looking to steal extra time, not to kill it. For sure, I’d never sit and play a game on my phone. The shame alone would do me in.
So I was going on about this “never” to my son earlier this summer and decided to illustrate my conviction by showing him that I don’t even have a single game app on my phone. To prove me wrong, he poked around until he found Solitaire. <Solitaire? Is that still a thing?> I tapped on the app and opened it by accident as I assured him that it probably came standard like the clock and the weather app. I mean it’s not like I would have … <Wait, I have three aces up and that red seven goes on that black eight and if I could just uncover a red queen I swear I could win this thing.>
Fast forward and this, my friends, is how I spent my summer vacation – tapping on that stack of cards, praying for an ace. I’ve gotten very little actual work done. I’ve prepared very few meals. The pile of stuff for The Salvation Army is still in my car. But I’ve worked out a complex strategy to beat a game that relies mostly on luck and comes with no prize.
I’m so ashamed. But not so ashamed that I’ve stopped playing. The thing I love about Solitaire is that it occupies your mind just the right amount. Alternating black and red cards in sequence isn’t very hard, but you do have to concentrate. It’s almost meditative, like staring at the flame of a candle. If your mind wanders over to the stack of dishes in your sink, you’re probably going to flip past the black king. Obviously, the stakes are high.
I’m hooked in such a way that I continue a game when my kids are talking to me. Staring at my phone while my children are sharing their thoughts is a major “never.” And yet here we are. Interestingly, this doesn’t bother them at all. They’re used to talking to people who are staring at their phones. In fact, I find that while I’m not staring them down with my too-interested gaze and overly enthusiastic follow-up questions, they talk a little longer than they might have.
I know for a fact that I didn’t pay for the Solitaire app, because between each game I have to sit through an advertisement for Candy Crush. I wait patiently for the ad to finish, rolling my eyes at the icky sweet graphics. Everything about it is unappealing to me. So it’s probably just a matter of time.