SCRABBLE IN THE TIME OF ISOLATION

My parents played Scrabble set up in the dining room, or on the coffee table in the living room. We had a little folding game table with a checkerboard painted on top. I do not recall they ever played on it, but aside from the table on which they set up the game it was important to have the board sitting on a lazy-Susan, because then you could turn it to face you when it was your turn. Very important.
They would play for what seemed like hours. Sometimes we kids would play, one or two of us – only four people could play at once. We were held to the same standards as the grown ups: keep accurate score, check the validity of words using the dictionaries kept handy for all (multiple dictionaries, for some contained words others did not). We learned the strategy of playing on the double, triple word squares, striving for the highest scores. No one ever let us win. We had to learn to do it ourselves. Once or twice after Mom was living in her memory care facility, her thoughts scrambling rapidly, I set up a scrabble board in her room. No matter how far her memory wandered, she always, ALWAYS played the double – triple word squares, and beat me soundly every time. Every time…
The most important thing I think I learned from watching Mom and Dad play Scrabble was it was very important to be quiet, so the person whose turn it was could concentrate. If one of us kids started pointing out words, or commented on missed double word squares, or punched each other, Mom and Dad kept their eyes on the board, but they raised their eyebrows, shook their heads and loudly whispered, “Shh, he/she is thinking…” Immediate silence followed. We did not dare interrupt a thinking parent, nor did it do any good to complain about it (part of the bigger parenting plan, no doubt). We could watch quietly, or we could leave the room.
I have been playing online Scrabble a lot in these days of isolation. I admit playing online, just yourself and a bot, is not as satisfying as playing with another person and a glass of Prosecco. Sometimes the bot lets you win, but more often than not it plays obscure (if real) words that double, triple its scores. I try to watch the counting, it seems impossible to lose by 200-300 points. The games move quickly though, and I lose count, and even when I can see the treacherous deceit of the machine, its miscalculations, it does not respond to ranting accusations of cheating. It just presses on. It just keeps on thinking. It totally ignores me!  Blasted Cheater!  But I do know how to end my frustration, to gain a semblance of control and recover an inkling of self respect.
I simply turn off the computer. I win!
Be well.

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