I am hard on myself. My lacksadasical demeanor and devil may care attitude notwithstanding, I put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed. My mother put that pressure on me when I was young, and in her absence, I pick up the slack. Of course, it doesn't always pan out. I am, without question, a terrible employee. I suck at math and fixing things that are broken and have a craptacular sense of direction. And while I am good at Scrabble, I should be way better.
The Queens tournament captured most of these failings in a neat embarassing package. After about four hours of play I was standing outside the hotel lobby in near tears trying to find a friendly ear who could hear tell of my woes and assure me that I didn't suck as much as I was telling myself I sucked. Finding no one (Fisch, who I used to play with a lot, was off on some non electricity using Jewish holiday. I then called Karol, my oldest friend from high school. Since we play a lot of poker together, I did my best to explain in poker terms what was happening, but merely got a "wait...are you really talking about Scrabble...yeah, not interested...you'll never believe who Ari is possibly dating!!!"
My mother was all "I don't know what the hell you're doing in Queens...you just had surgery, you idiot.")
Sigh. Okay "You suck at Scrabble and no one cares about you," I said to myself after four hours and twenty minutes. "Dude, why don't you try to cross Queens boulevard again and hope that the law of averages kicks in. Oh, that's right you don't even know what that is because you suck at math so bad."
Myself is a total bitch.
But I've gotten a wee bit ahead of myself.
I had surgery, I was laid up for a while and I was itching for a game. There was a tournament out in Queens -- I live in nearby Brooklyn. For something like $55. Okay, I'm in.
I packed up my meds and input the directions into my GPS, had a hearty breakfast and I was on my way.
I got lost about six minutes into the drive. Thankfully, with the GPS, I was able to get back on track.
I then got lost about about ten minutes in Queens.
I finally found the Holiday Inn where the games were taking place, parked and ran to the conference room.
I was late and my tournament clock had already started running.
I was down two minutes.
But that's okay, the one part of my Scrabble game that is generally flawless is my time management. I am often left with a good eight or nine minutes. Losing two wasn't going to kill me, especially since in tournaments we get two more minutes than they give at the NYC club where I usually play.
I opened with a bingo...and I was comfortably in the driver's seat. My opponent plays Joes on the triple on me to retake the lead, but we went blow for blow much of the match. With no tiles left in the bag, I had a slight ten point lead. I then played 'poshier' to bingo out. The problem with playing a bingo you're not sure of as your outplay, is that it's basically an automatic challenge. She challenged, she won it. I lost a turn, she went again, retaking the lead. I played posh. She went out and got credit for my remaining tiles. I lost by 24. I immediately went to the bathroom and threw up my hearty breakfast. Nothing to do with losing, I'm sure. It just didn't sit well with all the sudden turns, potholes and "running" to the game site.
I cleaned myself up and went back out to shake her hand and say good game.
I'd do better next game.
I sat down across from my next opponent, your quintessential Jewish mother -- complete with her two adult quintessential Jewish sons underfoot.
"You okay, ma?"
"How are you feeling ma...I'm sure she'll let you have more time in the game if you're not feeling well," the son said waving in my general direction after his mother said she was hot or cold or wanted him and his brother to call more and while they're at, where are her grandchildren? No, I mean seriously. It's like they walked right out of a book of stereotypes.
As for me, I was all "hell no, I'm not giving your mom extra time, are you drunk? This is Scrabble, not pictionary, kid." I mean, I didn't say that, of course, but I was thinking it.
Real freaking loudly.
Game started and I again opened with a bingo- frosted! The game was mine all the way. Halfway through she started bitching about her tiles and how she went 8-0 last week in Albany, but now she can't pick an ess to save her life.
Yeah, yeah, tell it to someone who cares, grandma...want me to get your sons?
I won. I bingoed three times, I did draw amazing tiles and I put them to good use.
Not too shabby.
And then...and here's the only picture I took that day:
I was just outplayed something fierce. This board is an example of why it's so unfair for people to be able to self select their division. I should not be matched with someone who knows voile is a word. I just shouldn't be. I lost five or six turns on challenges, then started making Hail Mary plays that she challenged, until finally I gave up. She beat me bad.
My next match was worse. For different reasons.
Again, I drew very lucky. I had THREE bingoes in that game. I had a 150 point lead with thirty tiles remaining. And then I stupidly fucking stupidly, played ax...I don't know what I was thinking...except that I obviously wasn't. She had an f, played it on the triple letter going two ways.
I was so deflated. She then hit me with the q going two ways, my lead was evaporating quickly.
And then, in haste, I played a word...I don't remember what, but the instant that I hit the clock, I saw that one of the other words it formed was "ni." She challenged instantly.
I told her she didn't need to bother going up to the judge (a computer). I took back my tiles and lost a turn.
In the end, I lost by three points. I bingoed THREE times and LOST.
Then I played this guy that I had just watched go over his clock by 12 minutes. TWELVE! (You get deducted ten points per minute), so I did my best to rattle him by playing fast. It mostly worked, when the game was over, he was at - 1 minute, but he outdrew me in spades with the tiles. I bingoed out with a phony on him, which he didn't challenge, but even with that and his penalty, he beat me by 9 points.
I just kept losing these squeakers that break your soul.
I played the last match before break against the son of the woman that I beat.
Talk about a tile rack. This dude picked both blanks, all the power tiles except for one ess, but I was still pretty close to him in points. Near the game's end, I played storier to take a small lead. He challenged. It was no good. I lost the game by 14 points and at 1-5, was ready to open a vein.
That's where my post opens with me outside about to play frogger across Queens Boulevard.
"Hey, how's it going," asked Woody, one of the guys from the NYC Scrabble club.
"It sucks. I keep losing by like one point and I pick shitty tiles," I told him this story, pretty much as I've written it and he said "storier...you should have played rioters."
"Great AND I can't find bingoes by simply putting the ers letters at the back and finding a commmon four letter word. FUUUCCCKKKK I hate Scrabble."
"Nah, you just need to practice. I'll help you."
We sat outside for a while going over hooks for two letter words and I was starting to feel better...yeah, I don't suck. I just need practice.
A older black guy came over and said "Dawn Summers?"
I smiled at him and said "yeah...?"
"I sold you your car," he said.
"Oh my gosh! Mr. Wilson, how are you?"
(I'm not a dork who remembers her car salesman's name. He was also the father of two girls at my high school.)
I asked about his daughters. He said they were fine and he went back inside. He played in Woody's division, so Woody asked how I knew him. I told him.
"He's a very good Scrabble player...but I beat him," Woody responded.
Woody went on to win his division that day.
I went back in determined to, as Fisch always says, "win a game."
My next opponent was an older black woman. I killed her on the clock and with phonies once I realized she wasn't a challenger.
For the last match of the night, I was paired up with the player who had a similar record...the Jewish mom.
"You again? Are you going to pick all the blanks and esses again?"
"I hope so." I said coldly. In no mood was I.
She had the lead most of the game, but I bingoed to pull close...with a blank, because I remember her saying "there you go again."
And in the end I victoriously pulled out back to back wins.
She was not happy "Am I the only person you can beat...you know I'm not feeling well...I think it's my back from the weather." She was 0-8.
Look lady call me after you've puked and rallied at a Scrabble tournament.
No mercy Summers. 3-5. Better than my Philly tournament...still not good.