My most vivid and broad impression of events seems to me to have been gained on a raw afternoon...it was a Friday in the middle of one of the worst winters on record and to be able to venture over to the Center for Bridge seemed quite a warm and cheery idea.
As I recall, this bleak of days even for February, was supposed to be snow-free, or so the forecaster of weather had so earnestly expressed. But as morning turned to afternoon, light grew dimmer not brighter and the sky became heavy laden with big grey clouds.
Inside, the bridge players were cozy, contently concentrating and occasionally gleeful. No one noticed the doom that was slowly but certainly creeping toward the Center. No one had any way of knowing that even that occasional glee soon would be snuffed out like a candle in the wind.
We played two hands and moved to the next table; played two hands and moved to the next table. A hospitality break was announced and most of us pulled out the crumb of bread we had stored in our pockets. Others - the more fortunate among us - would unwrap a leg of pickled pork or a handsome mince pie.
But upon finishing our repast we all finally looked up and out and saw it. The snowflakes. Big and fat and round (even though pictures of them always have points - why is that?). At any rate, a flurry of flakes quickly made a wonderland of the stark parking lot and snow mounds of the cars parked in it. The wind blew the whiteness about until all you could see was opaque oblivion. There was a frenzy in the atmosphere that was palpable - you were on pins just waiting for something to erupt or explode! It put your nerves on edge and your hairs on end!
Bang bang bang bang!!!! We jumped in our chrome and plastic chairs. Rattle rattle. Shake shake. What was that commotion? What is going on? Is the world coming to an end?
No. Some poor, hapless bridge player was trying to get in the locked entrance of the Center - the door no one enters once the games begin. Everyone knows you go around to the back. Everyone.
But still...bang, rattle, shake...
Through the gloom we could barely make out a form. Hooded from the elements, frail, trying to balance herself on an insufficient wooden cane she continued to plead with the door handle. My compassionate bridge partner said to me (who was nearest the door) "Oh please. Let her in. Just let her in!"
"No!" shouted the director. "She must use the back door like everyone else. Everyone knows this. Everyone!"
"But she's old and she's using a cane and she's covered in snow and it's so cold, so cold," cried my partner.
The director hesitated, thinking and then... gave in. She was just trying to be fair and keep the rules the same for everyone, everyone. But her tenderness won out and she got out her large ring of keys - jingle, jangle, jingle - and had the door unlatched in seconds.
The poor, hapless, tottering player passed through the door and nodded her head in gratitude to the director. But as her hood was thickly coated in snow, this most gracious of gestures blanketed all of us who were near her in icy cold wetness in which we had to sit for the remainder of the game.
That's what tenderness and compassion get you...