One of the many pieces of evidence that has supported my great fear that I am in fact getting older is my intolerance for all manner of social networking games, apps, and postable quizzes. I'm immediately tempted to defriend anyone on Facebook who invites me to play Farmville or Mafia Wars or who posts anything telling me how in love they are today. I Facestalk as much as the next guy, but have the decency to give me something to reward me for my efforts. I don't care which John Hughes film you are or that you're listening to Lana Del Rey RIGHT NOW. In the future, everyone will have their fifteen minutes of fame. There's an app for that.
The one exception to my curmudgeonly aversion to these sorts of things is Words With Friends. I'm addicted to it. I'm the guy who will start three games with one person and play them all at the same time. This is the 2012 version of that home schooled kid with two inhalers and the perpetually runny nose entering a speed scrabble tournament. I worry about defense and vowel to consonant ratios and setting up big scores. I mentally high five myself when I use a Q, Z, or X on a triple letter space in a word that also covers a triple word score. I talk trash to myself to my opponents when I break the one hundred point barrier with a single word. I play on my phone at stoplights. I get honked at.
The thing is, for a guy who loves words and reading and prides himself on having a well developed vocabulary, I have three friends who absolutely beat the shit out of me every time we play. When I first became addicted to the game, I had fantasies of playing words like loquacious, pusillanimous, quixotic, and acquiesce. Instead, I'm regularly losing to a Canadian dairy farmer, a bartender, and a should-have-been Abercrombie model. And by "losing" (10 points), I mean being epically defeated by over one hundred points and struggling to play words like nut (5 points), it (2 points), poo (5 points), and hi (4 points). This exasperates (20 points) me.
Norm's not really a dairy farmer...anymore. He grew up in bucolic (15 points) New Brunswick on a dairy farm but is now a chemist for a major pharmaceutical company. In all honesty, he may be the smartest guy I know and he approaches Words With Friends in the same meticulous manner that he services his bike, cleans his home, and grills his steaks. This means he's memorized every Q without U word, every two letter word, and probably has a reference guide akin to a football coach's "Go For 2" chart that is codified, highlighted, and indexed (17 points) that tells him which playable word is most likely to send me into a blind, murderous rage. Every time I think I'm hanging in there he goes and plays a word like "qoph."
Me: Qoph?! What the fuck does qoph mean?! Use it in a sentence.
Norm: Doug, qoph is the nineteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
The thing is, unlike some of my other more Machiavellian (28 points) friends, I know Norm isn't googling "words that start with q" and then pulling a fast one on me. He's smart and principled. I hate him for it.
Much like Norm, Daniel isn't really a bartender, although he does tend bar...at the pub he also part owns. The thing about the restaurant business is that to be successful you have to have good food, a great atmosphere, and incredible business acumen (14 points). The restaurant industry cemetery is littered with well meaning creative types who could cook their socks off but couldn't do inventory or manage a staff to save their lives. Daniel seems quite capable in all of these areas, which apparently makes him unbeatable at Words With Friends. Restaurateurs are often up at all hours of the night and I can't tell you how infuriating it is to wake up to your turn and find that some pugnacious (21 points) pub proprietor has found time, between mixing Jaeger Bombs and pulling Guinness pints, to drop a "quizzical" on you for over one hundred points. Recently, Daniel has stopped asking me for games. Do you know what it feels like to not be challenging enough for someone? It's like getting dumped. I can use circuitous (18 points) in a sentence, dammit! To make matters worse, if he ever does ask me for a game again, I'll know it's because he met his Daniel and he needs a slump buster.
John is a soccer buddy of mine from college. He's easily one of the best players I've ever had the pleasure of sharing the field with and I'll always remember both of us arguably having the match of our college careers in the same game. He scored four goals and I stood on my head to save four times as many and we beat the number two team in the region in an away match in which their fans' trash talk became sincerely complimentary towards me in the second half. Add to that the fact that John doesn't have a disingenuous bone in his body and that that body is chiseled like a freaking Greek god - not to sound homosexual (24 points) - and you can see why it's SO FUCKING FRUSTRATING to get absolutely worked over every time we play Words With Friends. In our last game, he won 417 to 216. He played "glozed." Glozed?
I make myself feel better by telling myself things like I was the cerebral (14 points) kid on the team and John was the strong jaw line and surely he meant to play "glazed," but accidentally used an O and it just happened to work out for him, but this happens every time we play. No one's that lucky. Right? And if they are, why is it against me? Maybe he has a cheat code I don't know about. The thinking man's version of up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Select, Start. Glozed. Fuck glozed.
If I keep playing I'll get better. I've learned to use ka and adz and za to great effect, but Norm, Daniel, and John continue to be my white whales. Swerve, me? The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run. Over unsounded gorges, through the rifled hearts of mountains, under torrents' beds, unerringly I rush! Naught's an obstacle, naught's an angle to the iron way!
Fuck. Norm just played "hove" for forty eight points.