As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m addicted to Words with Friends. I’ve blown entire days on Zynga’s electronic, Scrabble-style game. I have three friends with whom I play regularly, but sometimes I crave more action.
I was home the other day, nursing a cold and taking it easy. About the only thing I felt like doing was playing WWF. My friends weren’t on line, so I asked the game to match me with a random partner. Soon I was playing with a man called James (not his true screen name). James evidently didn’t have much to do besides play WWF. As soon as I’d post a word, he’d retaliate. After a few moves, he invited me to play a second, simultaneous game. We were beautifully matched. We split our first two games and then played two more. He won both, but all four games were close.
I didn’t use the chat feature with James, but I wondered why he had so much time for WWF. I pictured him as an older man, retired. Or maybe he lived in an earlier time zone. Maybe he was British—finished with his day’s work and relaxing with his telly, his cuppa, and Words.
I enjoyed the rapid-fire competition, but there was one problem. Too many of James’s words were suggestive. He must have played “tit” four or five times. Okay, that can refer to a bird, and maybe it was all he could do with a plethora of T’s and I’s. But he also played “boobs” and “sex.”
I’m no prude, and I’d never ban sex words. (After all, I can score big points with “pubic” or “vulva”.) But I don’t play those words constantly. His doing so seemed creepy. Having pictured James as elderly, I thought about my late father. Dad was always a ladies’ man, but as his brain aged, he lost some of the governors that controlled his conduct. Dad was good at crossword puzzles and would have enjoyed WWF. Like James, he might have tested his partner with bawdy words.
I wondered if there was a way James could acquire my personal information. I didn’t want to find out. I declined his request for a fifth game.
Last month, I connected with another random partner—I’ll call this one Alex—who chatted throughout our game. What did I look like? Where did I live? It was mid-afternoon in Cincinnati, but Alex was in Wales and had just gotten the baby down for the night. I pictured a young mother. When my partner texted, “I’m six feet tall and play American football,” I pictured a tall, athletic, young mother and posted back enthusiastically about sports opportunities for twenty-first-century women. After a few hours, I rethought the conversation, researched the football team, and realized I owed Alex an apology.
He came on line again as I was preparing for bed. “Wow, you’re up early,” I commented. Of course, the baby had awakened him at 4:00 AM.
“You’re a good dad,” I told him.
“I try,” he texted back. “But it’s hard.”
Interesting glimpses of people I’ll never meet. Fodder for a writer’s imagination. What a strange place technology has taken us!