Nora, I know exactly how you feel! Been there. Done that. And done that...and done that...
Addicted to L-U-V
By NORA EPHRON
Published: May 13, 2007
ABOUT three years ago, I stumbled onto something called Scrabble Blitz. It was a four-minute version of Scrabble solitaire, on a Web site called Games.com, and I began playing it without a clue that within 24 hours — I am not exaggerating — it would fry my brain. I’m no stranger to this sort of thing: one summer when I was young, I became so addicted to croquet that I had a series of recurrent dreams in which I was whacking my mother’s head through a wicket.
The same sort of thing happened with Scrabble Blitz, although my mother, who has been dead for many years, was left out of it. I began having Scrabble dreams in which people turned into letter tiles that danced madly about. I tuned out on conversations and instead thought about how many letters there were in the name of the person I wasn’t listening to. I fell asleep memorizing the two- and three-letter words that distinguish those of us who are hooked on Scrabble from those of you who aren’t. For instance, while you were not paying attention to Scrabble, the following have become words in the Scrabble dictionary: ka, qi and za. Don’t ask me what they mean, but my guess is that in the tradition of all such things, they are Indonesian coins. Luv is also a word, by the way, as is suq.
Remember that ad — “This is your brain ... This is your brain on drugs”? That was me. My brain turned to cheese. I could feel it happening. It was clear that I was becoming more and more scattered, more distracted, more unfocused; I was exhibiting all the symptoms of terminal attention deficit disorder; I was turning into a teenage boy. I instantly became an expert on how the Internet could alter your brain in a permanent way, especially if you were a teenage boy, and I offered my opinions on this subject at all sorts of places, where, as I recall, no one was particularly interested.
The Scrabble Blitz site was full of other deranged Scrabble Blitzers, who dealt with their addiction by writing comments about it in the Web site’s chat room during the two-minute break between games, the two-minute break being a perfect time to log off and stop playing Scrabble Blitz for good but you didn’t because you were totally hooked and besides you were only going to play one more game, or maybe two.
The comments consisted of things like: “I’m an addict, lol” and “I can’t stop playing this ha ha.” My contempt for these comments led me to think I was somehow different from the people who wrote them, but the truth is I wasn’t — I was exactly like them except for the lol’s and the ha ha’s, and even I have used an lol and a ha ha from time to time, though not in a chat room, and most of the time, I hope, ironically. (But to be perfectly honest, not every time.)
The game of Scrabble Blitz eventually became too much for the Web site. Lag was a huge problem. From time to time, the Scrabble Blitz area would shut down for days, and when it returned, so did all the addicts, full of comments about how they had barely withstood life without the game. I began to get carpal tunnel syndrome from playing. I’m not kidding.
I realized I was going to have to kick the habit. I thought about kicking the habit. I promised myself I would. After one more game. After one more day. After one more week. And then, one day, out of the blue, I was saved by what’s known in the insurance business as an act of God: Games.com shut down Scrabble Blitz. And that was that. It was gone.
I went back to online Scrabble, a mild and soporific version of the game. I restricted myself to two games a day — no more. I wandered from one Scrabble Web site to another — there are several — and recently found my way to a place called Scrabulous.com. I’ve been playing there for just over 50 days — I know because I recently received a congratulatory e-mail message from “The Scrabulous Team” on the occasion of my 100th game. It crossed my mind when I got the message that even two games a day was too much. But it didn’t stop me from playing: my habit was under control.
But the other week, I had a major setback. I went onto the Scrabulous site to play my customary two games, and to my amazement, right there on the entry page, was a chance to play Scrabble Blitz. Only it wasn’t called Scrabble Blitz. It was called Blitz Scrabble. It was back. It was working perfectly. And not only was it back, so were all the people I used to play with, all of them making their sad little jokes about being addicted to the game, followed by lol or ha ha and even an occasional :). I decided to play just one game, or maybe two. An hour later, I was still there. My heart was racing. My brain was once again turning to cheese. I was hooked.
It’s now been several days — several days when I’ve either been playing Scrabble Blitz or thinking about playing Scrabble Blitz. Several days that ended with tiles dancing through my head as I fell asleep. Several days of turning into a teenage boy again. Last night I had dinner with my husband, and while he was talking about George Tenet, I was thinking about the letter X. I was thinking, hex, lex, rex, xi, xu, exude. My husband moved on to talk about Iraq, and I moved on to Q: qat, qaid, qua, quae.
There’s only one solution: I have to stop. If I can’t do it by simple will-power, I may have to go to the Parental Controls page on my computer — I’m sure there is one — and put Scrabulous.com on the Don’t Go There list, or whatever it’s called.
So goodbye. I’m going. I am definitely going. Any minute now.
But first, I’m going to play my last game of Scrabble Blitz.