My older brother, on a visit a few years ago said, “You know those guys you see frantically working their laptops in the airports? They’re not working; they’re playing Free Cell!” “What’s that?” I asked, and much to my regret, he told me and showed me. He said it could be addictive. He said I wouldn’t thank him for teaching me. That was the understatement of all time.

Our mother used to play solitaire, several versions. I can see her hunched over the dining room table, smoking a Kool cigarette, dealing out the games, seldom winning. Always saying she would just be playing one more game. It was around the same time my father would go fly fishing every night and never catch anything. When I lived in Germany for two years without a television and eyes wrung out from reading Dickens, I relaxed and amused myself by playing solitaire. It seemed like a harmless pastime to while away the hours before babies entered my life and all my time.

And now I play computer games. I’m currently hooked on Spider and it’s got me in its web. I’ll play any chance I get, and seldom win. I think if I could only figure out how to beat it somewhat consistently I would get bored with it.

Two things I have learned on my own. One is it’s possible to play and talk on the phone at the same time. (That’s a prime waste-of-time experience). Secondly: If the player leaves the room for a period of a few minutes, that player will see a number of good moves upon returning to the tube.

Once when one of my kids was home, pusher that I am, I showed him the game. Before the visit was over we were playing competitively on separate laptops.

When my grandchildren are here, we take turns playing. Put a 10-year-old on a computer game and get to know how much smarter kids are than we ever thought of. My excuse to them as they whip me soundly is, “My brain is too full because I’m so much older. There’s not the room for anything new,” They don’t buy it.

I know people who can actually play one game and walk away.

There was a scene in “The West Wing” in which all the Oval Office staffers were waiting for some important piece of news and they were looking intently at their computers. As the camera moved around it picked up the screen in front of Rob Lowe. And he was clearly playing Free Cell. I used this as some sort of vindication. If those incredibly bright young people working with the president of the United States could sit transfixed in front of an electronic deck of cards, why couldn’t I.

I quit smoking, didn’t I? This should be a piece of cake. I might read a book or watch the History channel. I could pick some flowers and write a poem about it. I could learn to play the viola. I could even go for a walk.

And I will, after the next two games.