I have a confession to make. Ever since I’ve had my home computer, I’ve been addicted to a solitaire game called Freecell. At first I played it really a lot, two, three, four hours each day. But before I turned into a complete vegetable, I managed to make a compromise with myself. The negotiations were tough but a meeting of the minds was found at last. I could play one or two games when I turned my computer on and one or two games when I was shutting it down. In between, no Freecell. Amazingly enough, that’s worked for several years.
Let me tell you what I find so captivating about Freecell. Without going into the details of the rules, it’s a game where all the cards are laid out face up and you have to plan a clever strategy to get them into the final piles by suit, from ace to king. It requires careful planning, knowledge of various tactics, and an ability to look ahead 10 to 12 moves to see the ramifications of various lines of play. If you’re careful and don’t move too quickly and avoid mistakes, it’s possible to win almost any layout of the cards. But it’s never easy, it always takes an initial analysis to find the winning play.
I used to play chess when I was in high school and college. And I’m a computer programmer now. Both of those use exactly the same mental muscles that Freecell exercises. That’s why I find it so much fun to play. I love that kind of mental gymnastics.
But now a whole new world has opened up for me that threatens to blow apart the great Freecell Compromise. I’ve gotten pretty good and I’m winning more than 99% of my games. I got to wondering how my record compares to other people’s. I did some googling and found www.freecell.com. Here’s a site where I can play freecell and have my record automatically compared with everyone else in the world. (Or at least everyone who plays on freecell.com.) I immediately jumped in with both feet and played 5 hours yesterday and 2 hours so far today (11am). Madame Musing is starting to look daggers whenever I emerge from my lair for food. I’ve tried to reassure her that this is just a passing obsession and I’ll soon revert back to my old ways. I sure hope I’m telling the truth.
And as a last resort, if I discover that the Freecell Compromise cannot be reinstated, there’s one last chance to save myself. Freecell.com has the 12 steps to recovery from freecell, modeled after the famous 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. I pray I never have to use them. The first step reads:
- We admitted we were powerless over Freecell. Our lives were a mess. Freecell was in control. "Lunch hour" Freecell at work now stretched from 10:30AM to 3:30PM, which of course segued neatly into "after work Freecell" beginning at 3:30PM.