It seems like many people are taking advantage of all their time at home during this pandemic to take up a new hobby or learn a new skill. Anyone who has done a casual glance of social media these last few months have seen everyone and then some take a stab at baking bread. Some are trying new games and whatnot out, I have a friend in Chattanooga who has taken up jigsaw puzzles, and whom among us hasn’t given “Animal Crossing” a try?
Once I had baked bread, I thought maybe I needed a new pandemic skill of my own. But what did I want to do that wouldn’t require me leaving the house or having to get new gear? Hiking was out as my feet are garbage, also I would still hesitate about running into people on a trail. The answer came to me one night when I wasn’t sleeping. I was tossing and turning, my mind racing with thoughts about a zillion and one things. That’s when it hit me, a random passing through in my head “I wish I was better at Scrabble.”
Ah-ha! My old board game nemesis, Scrabble. A game that I enjoy, but am terrible at. I’ve played games with friends where the best word I was able to come up with all night was “doggie” and then I’ve played with friends who put three dictionaries on the table and due to pressure my best word was “boat.” My first thought was that I should fire up the long untouched Scrabble app on my iPad, it has a teacher mode that is designed to help you get better. Yet, the teacher mode just left me feeling more insecure “That’s a good word, but did you know you could have played this 34 pointer, you simpleton?”
Feeling all the more confused, I went to YouTube and typed in “how to get better at scrabble.” I had watched a video on there recently where author John Green talked of wanting to beat a Rubik’s Cube, and how helpful a video on YouTube was for him in doing so. Sure enough, I found a video from the former head of some fancy Scrabble group with tips on how to get better. Among them was one I needed to get serious about, learning all those perfectly legal two and three-letter words that always score big in the game.
But there were two pieces of advice in the video that sank in for me. The first was to not be afraid of swapping some or even all of your tiles. The second was to take your time. That landed more than the first, as when I play with friends I feel a certain pressure to get my move done fast so it doesn’t lag the game up for everyone else. Perhaps that was ruling my desire to not take another stab at getting better? The fear that I was turning the game into a chore for all the other players, ready and bloodthirsty for that triple word score they’ve had their eyes on since my turn began.
Taking this advice I returned to the app on my iPad and began using it. I could tell a difference, but I still have a good ways to go to improve my game. I don’t know what it is about the way my brain works, but I can’t seem to unscramble the words when they are in my tile rack, even when I move them around. I do not plan, nor do I suspect, I will become some international Scrabble champion anytime soon, but it would be nice to start a game out with a word stronger than “cat.” See you next week.