"OK, so that's a double-word score, for a total of 12 points — not bad."
That's what Carl said when I played my first word in our close Scrabble game last week. I've never been much of a Scrabble player, but I decided to step out of my comfort zone and head to the Scrabble and Cribbage night at the Two Harbors Public Library.
When I walked in the community room, I was immediately greeted by Carl and Laura.
"Another player? Thank God, because I did not want to play cribbage," Carl said.
I felt myself deflate a little bit. I really wanted to play cribbage. Cribbage was comfortable. But Carl was already pulling out the Scrabble board, so I decided I'd give it a chance.
My relationship with Scrabble is a complicated one. When I was a child, I discovered I was pretty good at coming up with words, but the strategy of placement was beyond me. Doing the quick math to figure out point totals was not a gift I possessed.
This led to me coming up with pretty creative words, and still trailing behind the others by 50 or so points. And then came the anger and frustration.
That frustration continued into the digital world. Like many iPhone owners in the early 2010s, I was an avid Words with Friends player. While not an exact replica of Scrabble, many of my abilities and failings transferred to the game.
While Carl set up the board, I reflected on the time that I played back and forth games with my cousin for a year. Games which I had never won. Not once. Not a single game. I'd swear that I'm not still bitter about it, but that would be a lie.
In another game, I remembered receiving the letters I, I, I, I, I, O, W. The only game I ever forfeited by choice.
To say that I was apprehensive when looking at my first rack of letters is an understatement. But I played the 12-point word and felt a little better. As long as the words were in the double digits, I didn't feel too bad.
My horror rack was more-or-less repeated when I received the letters O,O,O,O,I,V and a blank tile. But I didn't panic and looked for a place where I could unload some of those dreaded vowels.
The more I played, the more comfortable I felt. Carl and Laura were encouraging and competitive. The most recent Scrabble dictionary was on hand which quickly answered any questions we had.
In the end, Laura pulled off a big word to win the game. Carl and I followed by only 20 or so points. With such a close game, I finally felt like I'd managed to overcome my Scrabble-phobia.
Nevertheless, when Carl left, I quickly responded "yes" when Laura asked if I wanted to move on to cribbage. But maybe I'll be ready to play Scrabble again in time for next month's Scribbage night.
Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle. She can be reached at 218-834-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org.