“How did you hook up with the Scrabblettes?” asked my friend Laura. She had just given each of the ‘Lettes a large bag of personal hygiene products. Laura’s husband, Rob, works for a consumer products company. Her Walnut Creek garage is filled with boxes of free samples. The Scrabblettes were so delighted with their bags of goodies that they threatened to rent a U-Haul, back it into Laura’s driveway, and fill it with more free stuff. Laura had instantly become their friend.
“One of the Scrabblettes sent me a kind e-mail,” I said. “Then she wrote to the newspaper and defended my character against critics who said I was insensitive, racist and clueless. She purposely left out a defense against the clueless criticism because she feels I need to work on that aspect of my personality.”
“Well,” said Laura, “I’d love to have friends like them. I mean, I do have friends, just not any that will set me straight.”
“If you want to be set straight, Laura, all you have to do is join the Scrabblettes for an afternoon game of Scrabble.”
Laura took up my offer. One day when Bipsy was out of town participating in an Elder Hostel program, Laura filled in as a substitute. But it turned out that Laura was not such a hot Scrabble player. She used words that started with the letter S, she but didn’t utilize them in conjunction with making an intersecting word plural. She squandered her blanks, and she didn’t know any helpful words like xi (the fourteenth letter in the Greek alphabet), or zo, (another word for zoo). The Scrabblettes have memorized every obscure two- and three- letter word in the dictionary. Clever two-letter word usage garners great respect among the ‘Lettes.
But Laura made up for her lack of Scrabble expertise by being enthusiastic, and by passing out large tubes of hand cream and toothpaste during the second game. “You can come anytime,” said Rose. “I could especially use some more of that face scrub.”
I was worried about first impressions three years ago when I was invited to play with the Scrabblettes. I called my friend Corrie for advice. “What should I do?” I asked.
“Do you want to be invited back?” quizzed Corrie.
“Yes,” I said. “At least I think I want to be invited back. It depends on how badly they beat me.”
“Do you know how many games you’re going to play?” she asked.
“Two,” I answered. “Lunch first, dessert during the first game, coffee during the second.”
“Look,” said Corrie, thinking quickly. “You need to come in last in the first game, so they don’t feel threatened. But then you need to do better than last place in the second game so that they don’t think they’re wasting time playing with you.” Corrie paused for a moment. “Don’t come in first,” she added. “Aim for second place.”
“Sounds like a plan,” I said.
“And another thing,” added Corrie. “You need to take them something good to eat. Never underestimate the power of food when it comes to board games. Bring something elegant, thoughtful and sweet, but not too sweet. Too many calories and they’ll suspect you’re up to no good. But not too sour or you’ll leave a bad taste in their mouths. I’m guessing that the Scrabblettes are not short on taste buds or memory cells.”
“Okay,” I said.
“Report back to me after the games,” instructed Corrie. “I want to know how you made out.’
The following day I went to Louise’s West Berkeley home, an old, graceful, two-story house with a hot tub and a large, beautiful garden in the sunny backyard. I had no trouble losing the first game. But it was a real effort to finish second in the next. I called Corrie when I got home.
“I did what you said,” I shouted. “And they’ve invited me back!”
“Good,” said Corrie. “Now see what you can do about getting me invited next time.” ›