Mall Scrabble: The prologue

April 14, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 14, 2016

A helpful thing to do the night before you have a day-long event, especially one that begins in the morning, is to go to bed at a reasonable hour, fall asleep in short order and sleep soundly until it’s time to awaken. I don’t remember what time I first attempted to go to sleep on the evening of Friday, April 1, but otherwise, I can tell you that the helpful thing to do was the exact opposite of what happened.

Whenever it was that I first tried to go to sleep, I failed. That also happened the next time I attempted to get some shuteye. And the time after that. And the time after that…

On Saturday, April 2, I was set to play in a Scrabble tournament that began at 10 a.m. I had been looking forward to this for a while, but thanks to my inability to fall asleep, I worried that I would be in no condition to perform.

Eventually, I fell asleep sometime between 6:15 and 6:30 in the morning. I slept soundly for about 90 minutes before awakening to go to the bathroom shortly after 8 a.m. I fell asleep again for another 20 minutes or so before my preset clock-radio alarms began rousing my reluctant self.

It was absolutely pouring at some point that morning, which made me no more early to get up and get going. But I spurred myself onward — into the shower, into my clothes, into my car!

This tournament, as it happened, was being played in Durham’s Northgate Mall, a (very!) short drive from where I live. I turned onto Guess Road, drove a short distance, and turned into the parking lot. From there, I turned into one of the parking decks. I left my car in a spot where it was sheltered from the rain but close to one of the mall entrances.

As I got out of my car, I saw a young woman walking into the building. She was carrying a round bag, and something about its shape made me think that she was a Scrabble player. She was walking briskly, far more so than me, and I lost sight of her, but when I found the junction in the mall corridors where the tournament was being held, this young lady was indeed there.

My pal D—, who was running the tournament, was making some announcements as I arrived. Normally, when you check in at a Scrabble tournament, you’re handed a sheet bearing your name, your starting player rating and your first three opponents. (The sheet also has additional rows representing upcoming games, for which your opponents have yet to be determined. Each row, incidentally, lists or has spaces for the round number, table number, opponent number, opponent name, game result, game score and scoring spread.) But someone had apparently dropped out of my division — C, the lowest tier — so D— had to reprint the sheets.

As he was doing that, he announced the pairings for our division. I gravitated toward my table and identified my opponent, a new player and apparent middle-school student whom I’ll call L—. I pulled out a score sheet and a pen and my water bottle and tried to settle my nerves.

To be continued…

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