Hello. My name is Susan, and I’m a Scrabbleaholic.
It started with just a game once in a while when I would visit my mom in the evening. She enjoyed a good game, but she could control it. My sister liked to play, too, so we would play remotely on the computer every so often. She could control it, too.
I could not. Once I discovered computer Scrabble on Facebook, it was all over for me. I started playing games with all the friends I had who also played. At any given time I would have a half dozen games going. Not unmanageable. I could still function. My life apart from Scrabble went on.
Even when I found I could start games with random opponents, people I didn’t even know, it was okay. My game count doubled, sure, but that was fine. I could handle it. I checked the computer every time I walked by to see if it was my turn, but hey, I’m retired. What else did I have to do? I would get mildly irritated when the little box would pop up to tell me I had no turns available, but I was usually able to resist the invitation to start a new game with a new random opponent. Usually.
My husband probably noticed the house was untidier than usual. That was due to my watching my grandson three mornings a week. It had nothing to do with my spending more time on the computer. Honest.
Then something happened. I discovered The App. Yes indeed, there was a Scrabble app for my phone. And my iPad. Not only could I play my Facebook games anywhere, anytime – I could play against THE COMPUTER.
No more waiting for opponents to play. The computer took its turn immediately after mine. Every. Single. Time. I was in Scrabble Heaven.
My husband probably noticed we were eating leftovers more frequently. That was due to budget constraints, not because I was spending more time playing Scrabble. Really. It was.
In the evenings while we were watching TV “together,” I’d be secretly (or not so secretly) playing Scrabble on my iPad.
In the car when we took drives “together,” I’d play Scrabble on my phone.
I made lists of weird words for future reference. I practically memorized the two-letter-word list. I planned future moves before it was even my turn and then would be semi-irritated when my opponent “took” my spaces.
But here’s the funny thing. I found that there were just some words I could not play, even when they would give me a FABULOUS score. I don’t mean just curse words, either. I don’t play curse words (real ones; I don’t mind using the watered down versions like shoot or darn).
I’m talking about mean words.
For instance, in a game against a random opponent, a woman I didn’t know, I had the opportunity to make the word fatso. The “f” would have been on a triple letter square and it would have been a double word play. That would have been 48 points, people. That’s a nice score. But … what if my opponent happened to be overweight? Or had been, in her youth, perhaps, and had been the subject of ridicule? What if that word had been hurled at her at some point in her life and had left scars? I had no way of knowing; probably not, but maybe.
Other words, words that can be used derogatorily, don’t bother me so much. Words like stupid or imbecile or nitwit. We’ve probably all been called one of those words at some point (some of us more frequently than others). But some words just have such a hateful feel to them that I can’t play them in the game, even though it’s just a game. Even if it would give me a great score. Even if it would give me a bingo and 50 extra points.
Words can hurt people. Anyone with any conscience at all knows that the words we speak can be brutal, devastating. So can written words. We’ve all seen the news reports of how Facebook posts and texts and YouTube videos have ended in tragedy because of the humiliation they have caused someone. And I’ll bet it wouldn’t be much of a struggle for you yourself to remember something hurtful someone said to you in your past, because that’s how our memories work. We remember the really great things, and we remember the hurtful things.
Some wounds never go away. They might heal over, but they leave scars, and scars are susceptible to reinjury. I have a scar from a burn on the outside of the little finger on my left hand. Every time it gets too close to a heat source, I feel it in the scar, sharply, before I feel it in the healthy tissue. It hurts in the old wound first and worst.
Maybe it’s taking it a little too far to think that, for someone somewhere, just looking at a Scrabble board with the word “fatso” on it would cause them pain.
But maybe not. And if there’s a chance that that word might stir up something hurtful in someone’s heart, that every time they went back to the game, their eye would automatically find the space on the board where that word sat and they would cringe a little inside, is it worth the 48 points to me? No, it’s not.
So maybe I’m not a true addict after all. Maybe I just like a good game of Scrabble. Or ten.