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Monday, May 1, 2017

Agony, Defeat

I think that it should come as no surprise that someone who writes (even though it's been sporadic lately, sorry) loves words. Words have the ability to evoke emotion, to paint scenes in one's mind, to explain, and to confuse, and all sorts of other things. I will be forever grateful to the junior high school (middle school nowadays, but different grade levels) teacher whose name I can no longer remember, but who taught my class lots of latin roots of words. It adds a rich layer of understanding and possibilities to words one might encounter any day. But that, perhaps, is a story for another day.

I used to love to do the crossword puzzle in the morning newspaper, even going so far as to buy a crossword puzzle dictionary with my babysitting wages. I have never been much of a fan of online crossword puzzles, though, and games like Words With Friends don't thrill me to bits. I keep searching for the perfect word game, one in which I can completely immerse myself. I want to roll around in it, so to speak. 

I've enjoyed some computer word games in the past but they haven't made the transition to a smaller screen. I recently searched the Play Store for a game that I used to play on the computer that I really wanted to play again. The game gave you several letters which you tried to form into as many three to six (or seven) letter words as possible before time ran out. As long as you found at least one word that used all of the letters, you would advance to another round. But if you didn't find the big one, the game was over. Naturally, the game I was looking for wasn't available, just as I expected, but I was happy to discover that a very similar game was ready for me to play. Yippee!

I began the game full of anticipation. As sometimes happens, I had a few games that only lasted a handful of rounds. I was rusty, and that was okay. Sometimes a word that you see every day is almost impossible to spot when its letters are all jumbled. I kept working at it. I had a high score one day of a meager 1300 points or so. I just knew that I could do much better. With my vocabulary, I took it as a personal failure if I couldn't do much, much better.

A couple of days later Trent was at a movie (a guys' afternoon out) and I hit the game. I played almost the entire time that Trent was gone. By the time that he got home, I couldn't focus my eyes any more. I could see the tablet screen but not much else, but I had increased my best sore to nearly 5000. Progress!

The next afternoon, Trent decided to take a nap but I opted to play my new-ish word game. I found words long enough to still be playing an hour later. One after another, the six-letter words came flowing through my fingertips onto the screen. I glanced at my score and it was over 6000! I kept playing as the minutes ticked by. 7000, 8000, 9000...I was getting that nervous excitement where you wonder if what seems to be happening really is happening. And the word magic kept flowing.

When my tablet told me that I had to plug into my charger, my score was 9,995. I reached for the charger, plugged it in, and my screen went blank. Agh! I was freaking out. I got the screen turned back on and my game wasn't there. And when I opened it, all of my magic had evaporated. The heavenly game session was gone, and the home screen told me that my personal best score was under 5000. Agonizing defeat! I wasn't crushed or anything...but I was disappointed. I had been doing so well!

I knew then that I would have to do my best to reach the nirvana I had glimpsed before, the mystical, magical 10,000 mark. I'm fairly sure that a score of 10,000 means that I can barely hold a decent conversation, but I didn't care. I wanted to reach the heights that I had been denied before. I set out to more than double my highest score of record.

When I started a game, I made sure that my tablet was plugged in even if it was fully charged. No power loss screwing up my game again, thank you. As my Gram always said, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." I began games and tallied up points, eager to prove to myself that I had the ability to make the magical score. And then I had numerous chances to taste defeat.

I have to wonder what kind of dictionary some of these games use. For example, it's okay with the game if someone pees, but pee is verboten.  And sometimes I type in words that I know were in the Rocky Mountain News crossword puzzle but aren't in this game's dictionary. And then there are the moments one loses a game because the six letter word is padres, which is clearly a Spanish word meaning fathers. When I began another game, I remembered this and tried to use madres, meaning mothers. Not in the dictionary. Hmph.

And who the heck is making up the words, anyway? Here are a few of the unusual or questionable words I have encountered in this game.

clevis, a U-shaped coupler
uracil, a base containing nitrogen that is found in RNA but not DNA
sachem, an Algonquin chief
Saki, a British short story writer whom I love, but this is a proper name, darn it!
anteed, supposedly the past tense of ante, as in a card game. I find no sources that spell it any other way than anted. Hmph again.

Saturday, Trent decided to take another afternoon nap. I grabbed my tablet and hooked it up to the charger. I made sure that I had a cold drink and began to play. The words again flowed from my fingertips. I had a moment of worry when I thought, "What if I have to use the bathroom and my game times out?" I decided to take it easy on the Diet Pepsi. Then Brutus D Fatcat showed up and wanted to climb up on my chest. First off, it's terribly uncomfortable to have a cat put about 500 psi of pressure on one's breasts. Second, even if it wasn't uncomfortable, how was I supposed to see past him, or even use my keyboard? Third, if he rubbed or stepped on anything and screwed up my game, I'd be very upset. I tried to get him to lay still while I scratched him with one hand, but he still kept wanting to smother me. He would leave for a few minutes and come back and the dance, and my worries, would start all over again.

Finally, it happened. My score went to 10,025. The following round had some bizarre six letter word and I didn't even care. I had regained my dignity and could happily go on now that my ghost of a score had been met and beaten. Relief and victory were sweet. I'm still playing the game and enjoying it, but the obsession with my score has disappeared. I'm able to just enjoy myself while I play. Until a crazy word like mazers comes up. Or they turn a noun that means a shrub into a past tense verb. Seriously, it's like saying that the missing word is rosed, the past tense of rose, a flowering shrub. Okay, well maybe I'm not as relaxed about the game as I thought I was. But at least I'm stretching my mind and having some fun. Yeah, that's it, fun!


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