Wednesday, February 15, 2012

All Scrabbled Up

I am fond of the dictionary. I really like Balderdash. I like words and puns and palindromes and double meanings and double negatives and onomatopoeia. Learning the spelling of someone's name helps me remember it. I grew up playing Boggle. All this, and Scrabble is just not my game.

Which brings me, somewhat tangentially, to a confession: back in my university days I consorted with pseudo-hipsters. You know the type: not truly hip - they didn't do enough drugs or call themselves poets - but kind of hip because they owned a trumpet, wore mis-matched socks, and every one of their seven jackets came from a thrift store. These folks often answered "I try to write" when asked what they did as if claiming they actually did write was too committal but telling the truth ("I'm an unemployed English major") was just too lame to admit.

To return to my opening statement, let me take you back to one fateful night ten years ago when I found myself in a Montreal pub surrounded by my pseudo-hip acquaintances. (To be sure, I was never one of them I just liked to marvel at their aloof indifference from a nearby perch or perhaps I was the pseudo-ist of them all.)

I had just ended what seemed like a serious relationship and was looking for distraction, and so when half the crowd went home to bed I stayed on for one last pitcher of beer with the stragglers. As the last of too many drinks entered my system someone brought up Scrabble and the next thing I knew we were on the Metro zipping towards an unfamiliar third story walk-up on the eastern Plateau for a friendly bout of late-night word games.

I grew up looking the other way when my mother and older sister would play Scrabble, being drawn more to the simple racket of Boggle (likely because, being the younger sister, I could not compete on their level). In retrospect, I think I must blame my mother for the biting embarrassment of what was about to unfold in that Montreal apartment for she allowed me to play Boggle past the age when I should have graduated to Scrabble.

So there I was, quickly drawing nearer to one of my most mortifying moments in my young, pseudo-hip life, a game of Scrabble that awaited me at the home of that trumpet-toting boy who tried to write. In that moment on public transit I was thinking, "I am competitive. I am a wordsmith. I am a word nerd. I can spell. I was voted 'future Shakespeare' in my high school year book". Perhaps it was the heady medley of beer, youth, and a partial post-secondary education that allowed me to think I could hold my own among true Scrabblers - oh my transparently pretentious young mind.

By the time we settled around the table and chose our sweet, little featherweight letter tiles I knew I was in over my head. It took me ages to come up with words out of a toddler's board book to play alongside their "jukebox" and "quartz".

On my lonely walk home in my vintage coat and mis-matched mittens I thought maybe I might pick up the banjo.

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