Welcome to The Meta Game, the series where we not only be talk about board games, but also talk about talking about board games. I'm your host, Chaz Marler, and in today’s episode, I will be sharing a True Tale Of Board Gaming, an experience I’ve had during my time in the board game hobby, and what I’ve learned from it… if anything. Afterwards, I’ll skim the YouTube comments for questions, and we’ll have an informal Q&A session. To have one of your questions considered for the Q&A portion of the show, post it in the YouTube comments area, being sure to include the hashtag #TMG. I'll be using a search tool to highlight those comments. Not all submitted comments will be featured on the show, but I do try to go back and re-read through all of them afterwards.
But first, allow me to set the scene for this particular True Tale Of Board Gaming.
Our story begins in a small town in the Pacific Northwest, during a game club meeting on a cold, cold winter’s day, a year or two ago. Even though the high for the day was forecast to only be around 17 degrees fahrenheit, a dozen or so dedicated gamers still braved the cold and met up at our town’s Community Center, gathering together to partake in an afternoon of board games, including my contribution for the day: Kingsburg.
Among the familiar faces were a couple of newcomers: a middle aged gentleman was there to drop off his very elderly mother, a kindly wrinkled raisin of a woman who we’ll call “Hyacinth”. Hyacinth wobbled her way into the Community Center using one of those wheeled walkers that converts into a chair that she could sit on.
Upon depositing her at a nearby table, her son left with barely a word, and we tried to make Hyacinth as welcome as any first time visitor to the game club. She mentioned that she enjoyed Scrabble, which we just happened to have a copy of available. Since I enjoy word games, I bowed out of my game of Kingsburg that was about to begin, and, together with a fellow member named DeeDee, joined Hyacinth for the most bizarre game of Scrabble that I believe I ever shall play.
As Hyacinth settled into her wheeled walker’s seat, DeeDee and I started playing Scrabble with her. Well, not so much played Scrabble as watched Hyacinth stare methodically at her array of letter tiles for painfully long spans of time before finally placing nonsensical jumbles of letters down on the board. Eager to assist this scrambled Scrabble senior citizen, DeeDee corrected “Hyancinth’s” many spelling mistakes… at first. But slowly, over the course of one agonizingly slow turn after another, DeeDee eventually gave in and joined me in staring longingly at the game of Kingsburg being played on the other side of the room.
And then, it got worse.
Some time soon after Hyacinth played the words “Blorknat”, “Kiggitz” and “Lavamdasher”, her wheeled walker chair contraption suddenly rolled out from underneath her, and she fell right onto the floor with a crash! People leaped to rescue her and help her back up. Fortunately, she wasn’t hurt. But, at her age, the room was still filled with concern.
A wave of relief washed over the room when her son returned mere minutes after that. We informed him of his mother’s spill onto the floor, relieved that he could take her home and keep an eye on her after her tumble. However, it turned out that her son had only stopped by to briefly notify his mother that the cold weather had caused a pipe to burst at a relative’s house, and he’d been tasked with helping them fix it. His only response to being told of his mother’s spill was to quip, “she’s quite the Scrabble player, isn’t she.”
No, no. No, Hyacinth was not, in fact, quite the Scrabble player. Not unless the random assortment of letters “Sporkfnatz” had a meaning that I was not aware of. However, social etiquette prevented me from pointing out that fact to him at the time.
Instead, I chose to reiterate that his mother had been crumpled in a heap on the floor mere minutes ago. He nodded, turned around, and exited with neither his mother, nor another word. Actually, that’s not entirely true. As the Community Center’s door closed behind him, he did announce back to us that, “somebody’s gonna have to give Hyacinth a ride home”.
And then the door slammed shut behind him. And then, it got worse.
Everyone in the room sat, stunned, with the same quizzical expression, wondering if they had just heard that correctly. None of us knew this woman. Where did she live? After collecting our thoughts, someone suggested simply calling Hyacinth’s son to have him come back and retrieve her. Unfortunately, nobody in the group knew her son’s phone number… including Hyacinth. Well, fortunately, there was still over an hour left in the group’s meeting time, so surely he would return to claim his misplaced mother.
Ten minutes ticked by. Fifteen. Twenty. Forty.
Before we knew it, the time we’d reserved at the Community Center had come to an end, and there was a very quiet, perplexed discussion about what to do next. If we just left Hyacinth at the Community Center, would we find her still sitting there the next time we met, surrounded by Scrabble boards filled with incoherent jibberish? We knew that wasn’t as option. Eventually, two group members volunteered to take Hyacinth back to her home. And that’s when our game group discovered that Hyacinth wasn’t just an abandoned, elderly woman who didn’t know her son’s phone number, but she also didn’t know where the Community Center was in relationship to her house.
Fortunately, the volunteers were able to make their way with Hyacinth back to the center of town, and then from there traverse their way back to her neighborhood, and finally, back to the safety of her own home.
After that eventful, cold winter’s day, our game group never saw Hyacinth or her son ever again.
DeeDee, who endured the Scrabble game with me, has also never returned to our game club.
I still have yet to get in that game of Kingsburg I had planned to play that day.But the experience wasn’t a complete loss. That most bizarre game of Scrabble that I believe I ever shall play has introduced an entire lexicon of new words into my vocabulary. And if that’s not something to be totally “Sporkfnatz” “Lavamdasher” about, well, then I don’t know what is.