Last Word: Words With Friends

I’m not really into games. Other than losing at Battleship and attempting a few rounds of Guitar Hero, where I imagine I’m Eddie Van Halen but appear as though I’m experiencing a medical emergency, I largely avoid them.

Growing up, my brother and I would pass boring Midwest days by eating my dad’s hidden stash of chocolate cookies and playing Monopoly.

Not content to use the chump change provided by the Parker Brothers, we’d fleece the cash from Hasbro’s Game of Life and broker serious, high-stakes real estate deals.

Armed with corporate money, we’d negotiate over investment capital and zoning permits, and landing on Free Parking meant you could retire at 50 with a condo in Sarasota.

Since then, however, I’ve found better ways of using my free time, like viewing Animal Friends videos and examining unwanted hair on my chin.

I do, however, play Words with Friends on my phone.

Not a lot.

Only when I have a couple of extra minutes before getting out of bed in the morning.

Or before going to bed at night.

Also during work hours, afternoons, evenings, meals, family gatherings, vacations and all other times that I’m not sleeping or in the shower.

I’ve played almost everyone who’s willing to join me in the electrifying quest for triple letters and words that end in “Z.”

But not always with the best results.

After playing against a friend for a few months, I became increasingly frustrated when I not only lost every single game, but was defeated by a landslide.

My mounting feelings of inadequacy finally spurred me to message her and ask if she was cheating, prompting her swift resignation.

After what felt like a reasonable “cooling off” period, I invited her to a rematch.

And was declined.

Later I asked her about it over lunch, and she professed to have never received the request.

Something we both knew wasn’t true and officially ending our Words With Friends relationship for the rest of all time.

I still see her name on my WWF “scoreboard,” and she continues racking up more points than I could ever hope to.

Just not with me.

Another friend and I have been playing for years, and most of the time I lose to her, too.

I’m not surprised. She’s smarter than I am, and a vegetarian.

What does surprise me is that despite her superior skill at online word games, she’s never sent me a single, legible text message.

Liberally using a combination of letters, numbers and special characters, it’s like trying to crack a secret, war-time telegram just to figure out what time we’re meeting for dinner.

Wat u M fr &7 ltr. we gon 4 day, u?

Sometimes I hand the phone over to my kids, hoping that because they are millennials they’re capable of transcribing her version of Sanskrit and Latin.

Usually one of them can.

It’s probably because she sends nearly 8,000 text messages a month, according to my Verizon bill, making her a veritable expert in the field.

I shouldn’t complain about unintelligible messages since I often write myself reminders on a legal pad in our kitchen, only to return later and discover that I can’t read my own handwriting.

This happened last winter when I saw the word “deicer” scribbled down, and had no idea what it meant.

Days went by, and I burned more than a few brain cycles trying to decode my own message, but I couldn’t decipher “deicer.”

Finally, after a couple of weeks, the millennial texter came home from college and, in a last ditch effort, I asked her if she could make sense of it.

“Sure,” she said.

“It says, ‘de-icer.’”

After a snowstorm, our driveway had become a virtual skating rink. To reduce the risk of putting the postman in traction just to deliver the desk calendar I’d ordered on Amazon, someone had to pick up ice-melting pellets at the hardware store.

Mystery solved.

Though our Monopoly days are long behind us, my brother and I play an ongoing game of Words With Friends, which helps us stay connected even though we are on different continents.

In spite of an IQ assessment that identified him as a genius when he was a kid (I forgive my parents for not bothering to put me through the same test), he’s only beaten me twice in six years.

Which says something.

I’m just not sure what.

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