Just Thinking: Scrabble dabbler's losses keep racking up
I once thought of myself as a Scrabble player.
Not a great Scrabble player, not a champion, but scrappy. A minor force to be reckoned with.
Now I'm compelled to acknowledge the truth: If I'm a Scrabble player, my dog is a violinist.
Don't tell me my poor performance has to do with playing the game online instead of with an actual board and a bag of tiles.
My older daughter -- one of my two Scrabble opponents -- offered this explanation, which I reject. Telling a person she'd play better if the board were three-dimensional is like mothers who say the kids only act that way because they're jealous.
The screen version of Scrabble isn't perfect.
It's a swirl of matches, challenges, prizes, extras and hoopla.
I often want to throw it on the floor and jump on it, except what I'd be throwing and jumping on is my own phone.
When I'm playing the game, though, the experience is both exactly the same as the boxed version and better.
I can ponder at leisure how and where I might use the letters Q, T, N, I, I, I and I, whereas a person sitting across the table waiting for me to play will become restless and testy after the first few hours.
If I make the word "IQITIOI," the game will tell me it's invalid, and I'll remove the tiles and try again.
People hunched over a board know too well that a suspicious word can be challenged, and if the challenger turns out to be right, you lose your points and your turn. Online Scrabble is like life with do-overs.
I didn't begin these games expecting to dominate.
My daughter and I have played enough Scrabble to make me regret encouraging her love of reading.
My other opponent is my younger daughter's husband, whose mother also encouraged reading. I was from the outset wary of multiletter-score ambushes and disarmingly simple words that somehow add up to 46 points.
I remember childhood Scrabble games, played during visits to my grandmother's house.
My mother, sister, grandmother and I would sit around a card table, snacking on bridge mix between turns. Late in every game, my grandmother would place one of her last remaining tiles next to an available "L."
"Lo," she'd say, and she'd quote Alexander Pope. " 'Lo, the poor Indian.'' My mother would record two points for my grandmother.
Holy cow, I think now. All those years playing what I thought was Scrabble were in fact years spent playing two points for "lo" Scrabble. Sunday-afternoon Scrabble. Scrabble-with-your-grandmother Scrabble. I may as well have been playing hopscotch for all the preparation those games were for showdowns with my daughter and son-in-law.
During an early game with my daughter, she used all her tiles during her second turn, giving her 50 bonus points in addition to the points from the word itself. My mother accomplished this feat once. It put her so far ahead, we gave her the win and started over.
With my daughter, it's just another 64-point turn.
The other night, my son-in-law, who was winning big, texted to say he had used the last of his multiple-point letters, so his scores per play would now decline.
The following morning, another text was waiting. "Update: My score didn't decline," he had written.
I opened the game and squawked. He had pluralized "DOZEN" to spell "si" on a triple word square for 56 points.
My husband tells me I put my phone down, walked in a circle and picked it up again.
I have no awareness of this. I have no awareness of anything.
I may as well be back in my grandmother's living room, spelling "cotton" for eight points.
At least I'd have bridge mix.
Write to columnist Margo Bartlett at firstname.lastname@example.org.