I’m rated a few hundred points higher than this one guy at the club – let’s call him Nemesis Uno – and you’d expect that I’d beat the pants off him all the time. I don’t. In fact, it’s the opposite. Nemesis Uno beats the crap outta ME! Why? Why Lord? What did I do? I’ve been a good boy. I mean it’s just not right. Jeez, I eat my Wheaties, take my daily vitamins (the ones they call “Silver” for the doddering and drooping), I don’t tailgate when I drive and rarely exceed the speed limit, I keep my cursing to a minimum and I stopped coveting my neighbor’s wife some time ago (she’s a good looker). Hey, I’m the poster boy for virtue. What’s goin’ on here? Why is my trophy case bare?

So, okay, I have this shrink I go to (200 simoleons an hour) and I told him my story of woe and misfortune concerning Nemesis Uno. I put it to him succinctly: Why can’t I beat this guy, I asked him, I got a great forehand. My sage, with his dazzling plaques on the wall (the ones with starbursts), just looked at me with this expression of disdain and contempt – sort of like Tim Robbins when he called the warden in the Shawshank Redemption “obtuse”. I’m telling you – no doubt about this, either – he was attempting to convey to me the idea that I might not be able to comprehend his forthcoming psychological explanation for my unrelenting losing streak to Mr. Nemesis Uno. (Such hubris! All the couch shrinks have it.) Finally, he says, “You may not like this, but I’ll tell you anyhow. Eh, maybe you ought to pay me first.” That’s the extent of his sense of humor, except for his I’m sorry your hour is up routine, which he invoked on this occasion and left it just like a Flash Gordon cliffhanger as he stared down at his watch. Despite my prostrating myself and begging for an explanation, I had to wait for the next session to find out why I was losing. In the meantime, during the course of another week, I’d been humiliated yet again with two more grievous losses to NU. I barely managed to eke out a single game in several matches.

I have to admit that when I did get an explanation from my 200 bucks per hour shrinkapoo, that it was cogent and illuminating. Also, fascinating in a way, because I found out things about myself that I might never have discovered on my own.

“Lao Du,” my shrink began, “I’m going to tell you the story of a guy named McArthur Wheeler. Ever heard of him?” he asked. I shrugged a no. “Well, he was a bank robber,” he says to me.

Bank robbers? What in tarnation is that all about? He proceeded to explain by telling me the sorry story of this big time loser named McArthur (no relation to me) Wheeler (I repeat, no relation) . It seems this doofus had seized upon this completely nutty idea that lemon juice, which he found out could be used as invisible writing on paper, would similarly make him invisible and undetectable to the ubiquitous bank cameras if he applied it to his face. Smart, heh? (Me? I woulda used orange juice – it at least tastes better.) So, naturally, the fuzz got a hold of Wheeler rather expeditiously after he held up two banks, thanks to great bank photos providing crystal clear and multiple Kodak moments.

And then my shrink goes on to tell me about these two Cornell psychologists (Dunning and Kruger) who came along to explain McArthur Wheeler’s foul-up and, at the same time, explain my ping pong shortfalls.

Stay tuned. The next installment will reveal what my genius shrinkapoo detailed. And, take note: This wisdom cost me big bucks and it applies to most of you, too – but I’m passin’ it on for nuffin’. Lao Du