SAN DIEGO — Is your recreation bugging you? Is it stressing you or relaxing you? Are you working harder at your pleasures than you labor at your work? Are you weary from your reading, games and travels? Are you having fun?
"What are you talking about?" you demand. "I'm having a great time! I'm reading, playing bridge, playing golf, taking trips. I'm have so much fun I don't know what to do first."
"I apologize." I whimper. "But, let me tell you about myself . I know that you're having fun."
Let's start with reading, one of my favorite pastimes. No. It's not a pastime. It's a need. I read to relax--to learn--for amusement--to help me go to sleep. OK. What have I done to my great joy, reading?
I've turned it into work. There are stacks of newspapers, magazines and books awaiting me--all too precious to throw away. (Some belong to the library anyway.) And people keep saving things for me to read, because I've encouraged it. Let's face it. I've been trying to climb an unscalable mountain of paper.
But, I'm not going to throw away my Erma Bombeck articles until I've read them. I've kept newspaper food sections until the grocery store sales were long over and the food coupons expired.
Somehow I have found myself in three book discussion groups and one foreign relations group, all of which require readings.
I'm frantically reading science magazines from early 1986. It's absolutely certain that whatever scientific discoveries I'm trying to catch up on have already been superseded by new ones. I'm reading about diseases that have probably been cured by now. Compulsively, I plow my way through, trying to get current. I now say, "I have to read all this!" Have to? This is supposed to be a pleasure.
Turning Golf Into a Chore
And what about golf? I love golf! Honestly, I do. What have I done to that? I get up two hours earlier than I want to, drag a heavy cart into my car, drive through heavy rush-hour traffic in a drizzle, arrive at the golf course, unload and then have a serious decision about whether I should play in the rain. In this dilemma, I usually shrug my shoulders and bravely slosh through the mud--and the drizzle usually stops.
Now, an average or above-average golfer probably wouldn't care whether his/her ball bounces well. He hits balls that sail through the air. But my ball hits the ground, and when the ground is wet a fountain of water rises and the ball goes "thud." My embarrassment is even worse than my score.
OK. There are dry days. On those days, the golf course is mobbed. We wait extra time to start; and then we walk breathlessly fast up and down hills, dragging a heavy cart, because the foursome behind us is waiting. There are threatening signs posted at every hole warning us to hurry and telling us how long it should take to play each hole. It reminds me of time-and-motion studies done on assembly lines to harass the workers.
We lose balls--in the rough, in the water hazards and down slippery ravines. I'm ashamed to say that once I was on my knees in the mud, trying to reach a ball near the water's edge. I got it, but I was filthy. Most of the time we're too rushed to take the few minutes to look for balls. We just lose them.
Wearily we play par four holes that never end. "Are we there yet?" I ask. Someone else sighs, "What hole are we on?" Eighteen holes seem impossibly long. I dream of inventing a 12-hole par three golf course.
And then there's the embarrassment. I love to hit a good ball. It's thrilling. But, I'm not too happy when I flub it or miss it with everyone watching--especially on the first tee. There are balls that go crooked, balls that go only a few feet and balls that go straight up and straight down.
When the sun beats down on me and the humidity steams, am I having fun? I'm sweaty, sticky, tired and grumpy.
Why do I go? No one is forcing me. I play golf because I love the game, the exercise and the good companionship. I'll never stop. But am I making fun into work?
Now let's examine the ultimate pleasure, fun, recreation--travel. Everyone loves to travel. I love to travel. It's great. But there are a few tiny little things about traveling that I could do without:
Packing, leaving my pet (who is too cranky and sensible to travel), airports, late planes, takeoffs and landings, airline food, surly flight attendants, reading road maps in the dark, reading road maps any time, refolding road maps, strange beds, strange waiters and waitresses, motel rooms with stuffy heating systems, wondering about my mail and phone calls, unpacking.
Obviously, I've hardly scratched the surface of all the traumas of traveling. All I want to know is whether it's work or play? Is it really fun? But, don't get me wrong. I'll go anywhere any time. When do we leave?
Now, the final masochism--playing contract bridge. (I know it's fun because when you play it's called a "game" and you go to a bridge "party.") But are you having fun?