Sometimes you just need to get away from everything.
March was one of those months where I found myself scheduled to do something everyday. On the bright side, I was never bored. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a lot of quality time with Matthew. As a reward for my hard work, I treated myself to a day off from everything last Saturday. I took a road trip to Danville, Illinois. What’s in Danville?
Scrabble, of course.
Long time readers at GG, know there are few things in life that relax me more than a good game of Scrabble. It’s my anti-drug.
I haven’t played much Scrabble in 2012. I used to go to club meetings every week, but sixty hour workweeks combined with rising gas prices have conspired to keep me at home. Rusty as I was, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to play tournament level scrabble.
Unlike the last Scrabble adventure, I decided to ride to this one solo. Just me, the open road, and a few “A Way with Words” podcasts. As Grant and Martha waxed rhapsodic about word and idiom origins, I went to my happy place and got in touch with my inner nerd.
I knew I wasn’t going to win this tournament. I wasn’t as prepared as i needed to be and I was one of the lower seeds in the division. My main goal was to have fun and erase the negative memory of my last trip to Danville.
It was was about five years ago and I had just bought my first car. I decided to head to Danville for a Scrabble tourney. I had never been to Danville before and didn’t own a smart phone at the time. I printed off directions from MapQuest and went on my way.
I will freely admit that my navigation skills are not strong. Someone once asked me which way was north and with no hint of sarcasm I pointed toward the sky. However, I can follow directions pretty well. I followed the MapQuest directions to the tee but couldn’t find the location in question. I kept driving back and forth but to no avail. However, I did learn one valuable lesson. If you are driving down a winding road with ditches on either side, you should probably keep your eyes on the road and off the directions folded in your lap. If you don’t, there’s a good chance your car will veer off the road and into a telephone pole. That same day, I learned that if your the entire passenger side is caved in, you can convince a police officer to forgive you for driving 95 MPH.
This time I made it to Danville accident free. I met up with some old friends before the games started, chitchatted and waited for the pairings to be announced. My first game was with a woman named Julia. I had never met her before that but she made a lasting impression.
Julia is one of those intense Scrabblers who doesn’t see the game for what it is: a game. Yes, the goal is to win…but at the end of the day it’s just a game. No matter how good anyone becomes at Scrabble, it will never translate into a full-time job or heal the hurt caused by a childhood spent locked in a damp, dark basement while your parents sniff nose candy off the abs of neighbors.
From the moment we sat down until the time we finished, Julia was unpleasant. She sighed and complained as the tour director welcomed everyone. She tapped her fingers on the tables aggressively as rules were explained. I could tell she was not in her happy place.
We started the game and Julia’s mood worsened. I think it may have been due to the fact that I opened up a large lead and she couldn’t recover. She sighed louder as the gap widened. At one point she informed me that our match reminded her why she stopped playing competitively and that this would be her last tournament. I told her I was sorry to hear that. I didn’t actually care but it seemed like the right thing to say. Once the game was over Julia reached into her purse, grabbed a pack of smokes, and headed for the door.
I’d like to say that my opening match was a sign of things to come, but sadly it was not. I wound up only winning one more of the last six games. They were all close, with the exception of one game where an opponent dropped JUBILEE on me for 96 points on their first play. While I lost talented players, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I was distracted by Julia for the rest of the day.
As I played my other opponents, I found myself looking Julia’s way in between turns. It was like a train wreck, I couldn’t look away. In one game she scolded a player for breaking a minor rule violation. She spent another violently chewing Sun Chips getting residue on the tiles, which I’m pretty sure is a violation. After every game, she would shuffle outside to smoke another cigarette. If I had spent as much time strategizing as I did staring at Julia, I probably would have eked out a few wins.
I figured my run-in with Julia would be the most eventful part of my day, but it turned out to be a close second.
As I mentioned, I’m navigationally challenged. On the way back from Danville, I skipped getting reverse directions home. I was confident I knew that to how to get back home. I made a few wrong turns here and there, but no biggie. I also found myself navigating down a winding state road at night…not my specialty. Apparently, one my fellow road mates found my driving to be erratic and decided to phone local authorities. As I reached the home stretch of my trip, I noticed the flashing lights behind me. As I made my way from the fast lane to the side of the road, I noticed that I wasn’t being pulled over by just cop. There were four sets of lights behind me. Naturally, I was concerned. I hadn’t even been speeding.
The first cop comes up to my car and asks if I had been drinking or taking prescription pills. I politely stammered that I had not. He explained that he pulled me over because a concerned citizen had reported my erratic driving and because I may or may not have gone straight in a right hand turning lane. I explained to the officer that I had a terrible sense of direction. The officer ran my license and talked things over with his buddies. Two of the cops drove off and the cop who had my license asked me to step out of the car for a field sobriety test.
A part of me was annoyed while another part was excited.If ever there was a time to take a field sobriety test, it’s while 100% sober. As I got out of the car, I realized I may have picked a bad day to wear my hoodie.
I am proud to report that I did indeed pass my test and was able to enjoy the rest of my night. I can’t call myself an official Scrabble
champion yet, but I can at least take comfort in the fact that I have mastered the art of following the tip of a pen while sober.