One of the things I miss most while I'm in England is a good, rousing game of Scrabble. Brits aren't big board-gamers, and even though anyone who's truly intimate with the finer points of the game will be gasping about now, to the average person in the UK, Scrabble is exactly that...a board game.
This is a big disappointment to me. There's nothing so satisfying as a good "pixies" with a triple X - double word configuration, or a chance to play "waxy" on a triple word score. (I'm a big fan of the x tile. And cut the jokes about the triple-X pixies. You know what I mean.) I was really looking forward to finding some pals who would spend long hours drinking wine and memorizing two letter words like "nu". Unfortunately, I spent six weeks in Scrabble oblivion. Talk about a bummer.
I just don't get it. Scrabble is mesmerizing. Endless possibilities of spelling and strategy. Figuring the opportunity costs of playing the Q tile immediately with no major bonus squares, or hanging on to it in hopes of hitting a solid triple. Finding the one tile that can be place as a connector for a 30 point play. Playing "plaza" with a triple "z" and a double word score. These are highs that can't be gotten from Parchesi. Even the greed and revenge of Monopoly pales in comparison to the nirvana attained by adding q-u-e-s-t-i-o to an "n", scoring 50 bonus points as well as the hefty standard point value of the word. What's not to love about this game?
Some will tell you that they remember a time when you had to hold a gun to my head to get me to play. They're right. It took some time for me to see the beauty of hours spent shuffling tiles. Mostly because I sucked, and I hate sucking at anything. But with one key success (the aforementioned "waxy" play, "yeti", and "equine" all in one game), the light went on, and I realized that Scrabble and I were meant to be.
My family hates me. I beat them. Not sometimes, or usually, but almost always. I offer to lose, which just makes them madder. I try to explain that it's luck of the draw, but they don't want to hear it. They gang up on me, hoping to foil my plans at every turn. My mom is the ring-leader of this "get Mindy" strategy. She's a very competitive woman, a bit of a game-gloater, even, and losing just isn't okay. (I'm stating for the record that my mother is an excellent Scrabble player, and she is perfectly capable of pantsing me. For that matter, anyone in my family CAN beat me, they just don't very often.) But for some reason, I keep winning, which drives her insane. Hurray! I've finally found a replacement for my teenage rebellion!
Thankfully, I am home for the holidays and have many willing Scrabble players near me. Even with the flu, I've been able to fit in some monumental games. And I know my Mom is plotting her revenge for my visit to Iowa later this week, so perhaps I'd better sign off now and start brushing up on my Q words with no "u". You can only play "qat" so often before you wear out your welcome.