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    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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The Trick You Said Was Never Play The Game Too Long

There’s a lunch ritual in New York publishing that is elaborate, byzantine, and requires the skill of a master chess player. It’s called the Cancellation and Rescheduling Shuffle and here is how it’s played. First, you must know a real invitation from a lunch gesture. A gesture comes in the form of a business card clipped to a book with a hand scrawled: Lunch? Or a p.s. at the bottom of an email: let’s do lunch. Don’t be fooled; these are not invitations. They are hollow gestures. They are guys who take your number at a bar and never call. By contrast,  the Cancellation and Rescheduling Shuffle (CARS) begins with a bonafide lunch date, which can be cancelled by either party. Pawn to queen four. Some of the excuses might be: sick child, author in from out of town, had the wrong date in my calendar. But the excuse is secondary. Who cares if you have to get a bunion removed, a therapy session, a meeting with your wedding planner. What’s important is that you make a new date with absolutely no intention of keeping it. Pawn to Queen’s Bishop Four. And if you’re skilled you can postpone a lunch date for a year. Check. Which gets you bonus points and the opportunity to convert CARS to a game of  chicken where the person who bails first loses. 

Lunch?

32 Responses

  1. If the three martini lunch were still in vogue, a lunch date could be enticing.

  2. My brief time in Hollywood showed me there is also a kind of “code of lunch” there. Being “lunched” in Hollywood is an elaborate negotiation based on the perceived status of the two parties. I’ve been “lunched” a couple of times but at most meetings with producers and agents I was lucky to be offered a Tic Tac. The lunches I DID get were from smaller, lower status trolls like myself, who were vainly trying to achieve the level of lunch they felt befitting to their talent.

    Coffee was a more usual gesture, though ordering a normal coffee in LA is nearly impossible, or likely to cause an alarm to go off somewhere. I developed a taste for frothy green things, spiked with bees testicles and blessed by roving mystics.

    My new strategy is to fast in between signing a contract and publication. I fear this may kill me.

    An odd side note: they paying of lunch and coffee etc, seems to have no meaning here in BC. People pay, or don’t or go dutch, or don’t seemingly with no rhyme or reason. It’s damn confounding.

  3. Thank you, Betsy, for another chapter in the rules of grown-ups. Late bloomer that I am, I’m always baffled when I’m the brunt of the CARS game. There I am, putting the Moroccan Oil in my mop, when the text bleeps in: Have to Cancel. Can we resched?

    I’m all naive, thinking oh dear, that flu bug is really going around! And I scroll through to Outlook to IMMEDIATELY find another slot.

    I feel like such a rube.

    And, what do you mean about the guys at the bar who never call? You mean it isn’t that they just left the napkin I scrawled my number on in their pocket and it went through the wash?

  4. My agent cancelled our first telephone appointment, saying that her son was sick. My Dad thought she was just putting me off, but my Mom said a mother would never lie about her kid being sick. My Mom was right…when we spoke the next day, I heard his coughing in the background. Betsy, if you ever find yourself stranded at lunch, I’m around and not far away. Do you like pizza?

  5. Who’s this prendergast? a v. good writer. sign her/him/it up.

  6. This would drive me crazy. I’m way too direct for that kind of mess.

  7. I was just thinking the same thing. My mental health would never go along with this.

  8. Yep, this would not be fun for me. I wouldn’t have wanted to go in the first place, and all this rescheduling would drive me insane.

  9. That’s okay. I get up early, so let’s meet for breakfast, if lunch is a bad time for you.

  10. Lunch ?
    I wouldn’t make it to lunch.
    Anyone that lives that way would eat me for breakfast.
    And not in the good way…

  11. I saw Company this past Friday, so now I’m singing “Ladies Who Lunch” under my breath, and will be all day.

    It’s actually in my range, though, so I don’t mind.

  12. This is why I need an agent.

  13. Why would you want to do business with someone who can’t keep a lunch appointment?

  14. My real game, Scrabble.
    L-U-N-C-H, 12 points.
    N-O, 2 points, double word 4 points.
    F-U-C-K-Y-O-U, use all seven tiles 50 extra points.
    I win.

  15. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to know that kind of publishing strategy exists! I thought it died out in the 1950s. Who says the glory days are gone?

  16. Lunch? Sure. You fly on out here and come by my office and we’ll pop across the street to the Thai Won Ahn. It’ll be my treat (though the plane fare and lodgings are yours to cover). How’s that for a sweet invite you just can’t bear to refuse? I won’t even calendar it. Just show up. We can make it happen.

  17. At my age, I found there are two types of people in this world: those that keep lunch dates and those that don’t. The problem is that those that don’t keep trying to suck you in.

  18. Brown bag it. Smoke a joint, play Candyland and watch out for the hashish brownies made by the Peppermint Queen.

  19. My only reaction to a lunch cancellation would be relief.

  20. Does this pertain to agent/client relationship as well? Perhaps I was just lucky. I would not have known the rules for this particular game of chess.

  21. These kind of games are way too complicated for my simple mind. I am just not that tricky. I’m with Averil, I love a cancellation — it gives me a couple of bonus hours in my day. Checkmate, I win.

  22. I might cancel exercise class, but never ever food or drinks. Silly people.

  23. lord, no wonder people in the restaurant biz are so cranky! However, I have found that lunch dates in the South are The Real Deal; canceled only for Real Reasons. We take our meals quite seriously! And what these games-playing people forget is that having lunch at the right restaurant can be both a see-and-be-seen exercise and a chance to talk to someone else on your radar who is seated two tables down the room.

    Anyone for lunch next week? has to be after Wednesday.

  24. I’d be a master at that game. Pure fluff compared to the executive, suburban housewife version, I’m sure.

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