Wordaholic

 

“Whoever dreamed up Scrabble had an exaggerated idea of how many seven-letter words have five I’s.” — Robert Brault

I’d like to say that I spend my free time reading the classics or that I write daily, crafting witty essays, sending them off to publishers clamoring for more.

I’d like to say that my closets and cabinets are thoroughly organized; my spices in alphabetical order.

I’d like to say that I spend my afternoons in the kitchen creating culinary marvels or that I’m out jogging or weight-lifting at the gym.

I’d like to say all of this, but, I can’t.

And it’s all because of Scrabble on my IPad.

With just a tap of my fingers, I am absorbed in any one of the eighteen games I’ve got going at once.

Some are with my best friend; others are with people I’ve never met. Pat in Ohio and I can spend an evening back and forthing. Elise, Maureen, Sunjay… who the heck are they? Liberal Democrats? Tea Party Republicans? Kind and generous? Mean and nasty? Neurotic? Schizophrenic? What do I care? They play Scrabble, and that’s good enough for me.

Any time… before I’m out of bed in the morning, while I’m making dinner, while I’m waiting for the dryer to stop tumbling, during commercials, at the end of every chapter I’m reading. Tappity tap and I’m in…

I know all of the acceptable two letter words, from aa to za. And big news! Scrabble has added a few new ones, so I can now plunk down te, po, and gi to my heart’s content. I know the importance of an S as a hook, the value of a blank, the enticement of an open triple word score space. Each game presents new challenges; too many vowels, a seven-letter word with no where to place it, a rack of unwelcome letters, like V or C. I face adversity with determination; I accept victory with aplomb.

My attention span used to be stellar. I could sit absorbed in a book for hours. Alas, that has been a casualty of the game. Even while I typing this, I took a five minute break to plop a couple words into a waiting game.

I used to be a purist, playing on a real board. I swore I’d never abandon the accoutrements of the game — the velvety bag of letters, the hands-on shuffling of tiles on the rack. Just like the book-only people now scrolling their Kindles, I eschewed my Luddite ways and dove in. Why worry about missing tiles, lugging around a big board, and relying on a paperback Scrabble dictionary when the IPad version does it all. Tap, slide, tap, and my best effort is flying through cyberspace to dazzle my opponent.

My best friend and I have whiled away hours over a couple of decades, sitting around in the kitchen or at a picnic table, moving around little wooden letters. We used to play on an old cardboard set that folded in the middle. Next, it was the Deluxe edition, with ridges around every square to keep the tiles from sliding. Then, we graduated to the 75th anniversary edition, a slick all-in-one with drawers to store racks and tiles. We’ve played Travel Scrabble on airplanes to Europe, cramping our fingers to manipulate the pea-sized letters. On vacations, we’ve sat on a French terraces, in Scottish hotel tearoom, at an Italian villa, playing game after game.

Those traditions tossed aside, we’ve succumbed to pass-n-play, tilting our IPad to avoid the sun’s glare, making a move, then handing it off to each other. Once content to play one leisurely game at a time, we now can have two going at once. No waiting for my turn while basking in the leafy surroundings of the park. No slow contemplation of my best choice — just tap and pass, tap and pass.

My TV watching has suffered as well. I can barely concentrate on a whodunit. Watching with one eye, playing with the other, I tell myself, is good for my brain. I’m multi-tasking! But I’m actually doing a lousy job at both endeavors. How could I not notice the sly look on the TV culprit’s face? How could I have not noticed the triple word score spot begging to be covered by my Q word?

A pastime? Or a reason for living? A good question to contemplate, but I’ll get to it later. Right now I see a seven-letter Z word raring to go.

 

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