I’d like to have a word with you. Actually, I’d like to share several words with you. Given my choice of phrase, I’ll reassure you that you’re not in trouble. Not at all, my friend. If anyone is in trouble, it’s me. You see, I’ve become an addict. I’m hoping that it’s just a seasonal thing since my obsession involves connecting with friends and family, and this is the time of year for that. If temporary, my mania should diminish in a couple of months and I can return to communicating in more meaningful ways. Otherwise, cross words will persist. Please don’t take offense.
I’ll tell you about my addiction, but first I want to play with words to tell you about my predilections for the holiday season. For me, this time of year is all about making connections with friends and family, especially those with whom I’ve not been in touch for a while. Of course, I have other associations, too. They include the typical: Christmas (which, since I am Jewish, have only started celebrating recently, upon meeting Eileen); Hanukah (lighting candles every night now because Eileen insists upon it – vs. lighting them only when convenient or when with other Jews); gifts (yes, I do enjoy a few well-selected ones). And, the more recent traditions of Kwanzaa (which I’ll admit to knowing pitifully little about) and the Pastafarians, who ascribe to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I just learned about the latter this year. It’s a hoot. Check out this link to learn more about the origins and foundations of this iconoclastic creed.
This part of the year is distinctive because it’s a time of conversing with others – often with words carefully chosen. For instance, there’s the dilemma of whether to say Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah or ?? to strangers. But, more importantly it includes attending office parties, holiday open houses, New Year’s Eve bashes, holiday happy hours – most of which I don’t take part in these days (especially as my office party would be a party of one) – as well as family get-togethers to give and receive gifts, decorate trees and homes, light candles, and (of course) eat and overeat. The gatherings that I appreciate most are with a small group of friends or family. We get together for a meal, go for a wintertime walk, or just touch base when everyone else around us seems to be running in circles of social and material commitments.
It’s also a time of reading words relevant to year’s end. If we’re lucky, they’re imbued with heartfelt meaning. If not they’ve at least been chosen to match the season. I’m referring to the holiday cards we get in the mail. I love them – especially the ones that come in the real mail, the one still operated by the U.S. Postal Service. There’s something nostalgic about getting a hand-written envelope with my name on it – in the realization that it conveys a personal thought from someone I know, rather than a cold hard bill or a donation plea from yet another cash-strapped non-profit. Sometimes the cards come with photos of kids who (miraculously!) are transforming themselves into adults; other times they’re mini-history books, highlighting the accomplishments, travels and penchants of each family member (including the dog). They offer tiny windows into the daily lives of friends who’ve I not seen for years, and whose routines and interests may have changed since last we spent time together. And, they bring back memories of former exploits together, whether silly or sad, enlightening or glad.
This year, I’ve been connecting with friends and family many miles away in a new way. Like the holiday e-cards that Eileen and I send out (sorry, no hand-written envelopes, but our emailed greeting is easier to send, able to reach more people, and more environmentally sound), it takes advantage of the Internet. It’s much more interactive than the usual mail blitz, and unlike our card (replete with photos of our year’s adventures but short on words), it’s chock full of words. And, the words are carefully selected and strategically placed. They have meanings, but I’ll admit that when linked together, there is no particular message conveyed. Yes, I’ve become absorbed by a meaningless addiction. But, it does have its benefits – keeping me sharp to ward off potential Alzheimer’s and connecting me to people whom I might otherwise not spend much time with.
So, what is my obsession? It’s Words with Friends – or WwF, as it’s referred to in text talk. Not to be confused with the World Wildlife Fund, Wrestling Federation (which changed its name to World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE, as a result of a law suit filed by the wildlife conservation organization), Widowed White Female, or Welded Wire Fabric – to name a few other claimants of the acronym. In case, you’re App-challenged, Words with Friends is a game that you can download to a smart phone or tablet. It’s like Scrabble but with the double and triple word/letter score boxes in different places (to avoid copyright challenges).
Addicted, you say? If you know me, you know that I’m not one for addictions. Rather, I abide by the “Everything in moderation” (well… just about everything…) philosophy. But, I’m a game player and I do love words (hence my penchant for blogging). I don’t get to play Scrabble often enough because traditional Scrabble – over a real board with wooden letters – takes a willing partner and concentrated, focused time. Eileen, my closest prospect, isn’t into games (especially those which I’m good at!), so a pick-up game with her is unlikely. And, the typical occasions for playing – while on vacation or at designated game nights – don’t come ’round often enough either. So, I’ve come to rely on Words with Friends, which I can play anytime, and with as many different players as I want.
As a result, I’ve taken to checking my iPhone every hour – or often every 20 minutes – throughout the day and night to see if my opponent has played a word. If so, it’s my turn to wring 75, 86 or even 91 points out of my jumble of letters. If I succeed, I’ve satisfied my addiction. I can get back to accomplishing something worthwhile, or having a meaningful conversation with friends. That is, until I hear another ping on my iPhone, indicating that it’s my turn again. Aaach! What can I do with S-A-U-E-U-S-U??