The Bids and the Bees | Newberry

The Bids and the Bees

Got a case of bee squeezers this week. I guess I’ve had donations which included bee squeezers before, but a whole case…I was rather disappointed to find that some of the bee squeezers had been removed and replaced with filler made by other brands.

I have always loved jargon. A retired middle manager from a sash-and-door company held me riveted once by telling me about the door people would order as WP/YPS&R, which stood for White Pine Panels with Yellow Pine Stiles and Rails. And I offended a world-famous botanist by reading a sentence from a guidebook that I understood not a word of but which I said rolled like true poetry.

“I can tell you what that MEANS,” he said, sounding a bit edgy.

“No, no,” I said. “Don’t spoil the magic.”

One or two of you, therefore, may be wondering why I am making such a fuss about this estate I got in from a fanatic cardplayer. The Bee Playing Cards were known the world over, billed as the finest cards ever made for poker. (The design on the back was supposedly very hard to mark: accidentally or intentionally.) And they were very proud of their Squeezer decks, manufactured to make them easier to hold in the hand (You squeezed the lower corners together, you see.)

Note to younger generation: playing cards are like those things you use in your computer solitaire games except they were printed on bits of plasticized paper. There was a front and a back on each card, and you turned them over by hand, not by clicking a mouse. Mice didn’t click much in those days; on Christmas Eve they didn’t even stir.

I have written elsewhere about how I sell people’s dreams. It is clear from this collection that this man and his wife dreamed about consistent conquest in a game called Bridge. In the days of unclicking mice, this was less a game than a religion among a major part of the population. (There are still large colonies of these people scattered throughout the world.) A real disciple, like this one, could find nearly as many products to improve their game as an avid golfer finds now: a pre-computer machine called the Autobridge, cards with the bridge points printed on them, and lots of books. Every newspaper worth its salt featured a bridge column, and the true devotee clipped these. The hands played by the experts, from Ely Culbertson to Omar Sharif, were studied in the same way chess fans pore over classic games by Spassky and golfers discuss how Arnie handled that wicked third hole at Strawberry Point.

This collection has all of that, plus a half dozen decks of Bicycle cards, another half dozen of decks from country clubs and resorts, and about a dozen, of course, of these Bee Squeezers. It must all be dispersed, of course: no bridge fanatic buys cards, tallies, and clippings of another. They all like to build up their own accumulations. And who is left from those parties where so many followers of the art gathered that 24 decks of cards were required?

I could take it all home and try to learn the game myself, of course. I understand one of the players is a dummy. I could handle that, in between bouts of bee squeezing.

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