Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Play it again (on competition among lovers)

I've never been much of a competitive person. Of course, I like to win. Who doesn't? But I would rather lose in a fair and fierce competition than win because someone felt I needed to be recognized. That kind of winning, frankly, sucks.

And so, when my fiancee and I began a friendly game of "Words with Friends" (Zenga's version of online Scrabble), it began as a, well, a friendly game. We'd play while on breaks at work. We'd play sitting side by side on my parent's couch (facing our phone screens away from each other under our "no peeking policy"). Fast forward about 50 days, and our amicable competition has become a cut throat past time.

As the English teacher with a penchant for and affinity to unusual words, I'd just expected to wipe out my competition. I mean, I have a word wall in my classroom of interesting words I find in my readings (making the list are words like perclempt, cacophony, erstwhile, and clairvoyance). How can I not kick butt in a game about forming words?

I tell you, I was on a role. Game after game I was winning (I even made a 150 point come from behind victory and clenched the win by two points). I was pulling out words I've not heard or used for years. I'd seen him play, trying out a letter here or there, rearranging at arbitrary random until the game was "sending" his word. He'd gotten me with a few good ones - - words I would not have believed existed (qi, quop, et, jape, yock, zu). But he didn't know the secret. You have to be conscious of the TL (triple letter), DL (double letter), DW (double word), and TW (triple word) squares.

I told him. He listened. And then, I lost.

Imagine the devistation. I considered the initial win a fluke, meerly a lucky handout of letters (I was denied consonants, for heaven's sake!).

And then, I lost. Again.

Half dozen losses later, I decided I'd play him on his own game. Beat him in something he loved. We made a simple wager. I picked up an XBox 360 controller and selected a comic character to battle against his Mortal Combat choice.

I mashed those darn buttons. I twirled the little joystick with my thumb. I mashed more buttons. I moved the controller for extra oomph on my button pushing frenzy.

I lost. Badly.

Every once in a while, my frantic and obscure button punching resulted in more than just sore thumbs - a special combination or a glowing figure with what seemed like temporarily better talent. But for the most part, I was just depressing buttons and my morale while my defenseless character was beaten to a pulp.

It started out best out of five, but I lost three matches (six deaths!) so quickly, that he revised that to best of ten. And suddenly, with a new character (because, you know, it was the character and not my playing that sucked), I won. And then I won again and secured a match.

On a sudden streak of success, I picked another character. I mashed those darn buttons. I twirled the little joystick with my thumb. I mashed more buttons. I moved the controller for extra oomph on my button pushing frenzy. I won.

But then I realized that he wasn't really moving his fingers on his controller. Instead, his thumbs half rested on the buttons while he pretended to be shocked at my sudden burst of playing genius. He moved his controller slightly for legitimacy (he couldn't very well set it down without me noticing he was letting me win, could he?). It was clear, though, that he'd allowed me the win.

Hmmm... so was he giving me the wins in "Words with Friends?" Could I have found my intellectual match in this guy? And if I did, can I handle these occassional knocks to my pride?

*** He insists he did not and has never "let" me win... I'm inclined to believe this a sweet attempt at making me feel better.
For the inquisitive minds
qi (aka chi) is life force or energy in Taoism
quop (usually spelled quob or quab) is to throb or quivered
et is a simple past tense way to say eat (as in "Mommy I done et it already")
jape means to mock or jest
yock, like yack, is to laugh loudly or obnoxiously
zu is an Italian instrumental trio from Rome usually consisting of saxaphone, bass and drums

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