Before there was Back to the Future, there was Peabody and Sherman and their Wayback Machine on “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show,” a standard of 1960s Saturday morning cartoons.
So today, let’s take a quick trip in the Wayback Machine. We’ll just turn the dial a hair — not all the way to Camelot, just a few years to, say, 1999 or so. Before Twitter and the iPhone. Before Words with Friends, Angry Birds and Ruzzle.
If you were on the internet back then, you may possibly remember word games such as UpWords and WordOx. And, yes, both of these games are still around (although I haven’t heard them mentioned in years).
In accordance with my night owl proclivities, I often played both these Scrabble-like games until the wee hours of the morning. And who knows? You may have met me back in my WordOx days.
My screen name was “Inconsiderate.” I chose this name after my wife, quite rightly, tagged me with this moniker. Honestly, I was pretty bad back then. When we were first married, I had no clue what I was doing and continued on in many of the selfish (and childish) ways I had cultivated as a single guy. Okay, so I’m still pretty bad. I like to think that I’m a little better than I was back then, that I’ve learned a thing or two in fifteen years of marriage.
But there are a lot of days when it is clear to me that I am still the same idiot as always.
Take today, for instance. My wife and I were walking around Wal-Mart. I was pushing the cart. We had quite a bit of shopping to do, as did the other zillion shoppers sharing the store with us. Except that I acted as if I was the only person in the whole store. At the end of an aisle, I made a sharp right turn without looking to see who was coming. I’m just glad I wasn’t driving my car. I “cut off” a little old lady with a very full shopping cart. She promptly pointed out that she had the “right of way.” I agreed that she did and apologized for not paying better attention. She made some other choice comments. My wife later opined that the woman was rude, and I agree.
But that’s how it is: If you don’t pay attention to how your actions will affect others, you will inevitably piss them off and they will let you know in no uncertain terms that you are a douchebag.
I probably wouldn’t have thought too much about this little incident if it hadn’t been the second consecutive day that someone had called me out for being, like my WordOx screen name, inconsiderate.
Allow me to explain that I have played in a regular Scrabble tournament via email for the past decade and then some. I have gotten to know some very lovely people from all parts of the world in the course of playing our turns back and forth. But I currently seem to be in a feud with one of my opponents who feels personally injured because I frequently do not bother to say “good luck” at the start of a game and “congratulations” at the end.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s “a man thing.” I don’t stand on ceremony. I am not big on the social niceties and, frankly, I rarely notice whether or not others bother with them. “We’re here to play a game,” is my line of thinking. Just play!
Or maybe I’m still just plain inconsiderate. You know, not a very nice person.
I’ve been trying to figure out how I got this way. Laziness? Yep, probably has a lot to do with it. Upbringing? Maybe. I am a native New Yorker raised by two native New Yorkers. And New Yorkers are, if nothing else, a jaded lot. We push our way into buses and subway cars, cut in line if we can get away with it, flip people off if we are annoyed. We engage in every ilk of unsavory behavior that I’d rather distance myself from. We tend to undertip, pocket the excess change given us by mistake and engage in acts of Schadenfreude and one-upmanship that keep the Park Avenue therapists in business.
Suffice it to say that things are a lot different here on the west coast of the United States. Californians are renowned for their mellowness. Or so I’m told. I’m still not sure how the road rage and drive-by shootings of Los Angeles fit into the cool groove of La-La Land. Chalk it up to the stress of inching along on the freeways and breathing smog. I am glad I don’t live down there.
A fellow blogger recently posted about a study conducted to determine which states were the most “courteous” and which had reputations for “swearing like sailors.” California fell squarely into the latter category. So I think a lot of the groovy surfer dude stuff is more myth than reality.
I’m not sure where exactly I fall on the spectrum. My annoyed Scrabble opponent asked whether, in my desire to forego the niceties, I don’t bother to say “please” and “thank you.” My wife, who is extremely courteous, has taken me to school over this issue in the past and I am proud to say that I am somewhat less Neanderthal about it than I used to be.
I still tend to push open store doors and walk straight out without turning around to see if anyone is behind me or holding the door for them if there is. I’m not trying to be rude; it’s just that most of the time I don’t think about it. And if the person ahead of me does the same, I blame only myself if the door slams in my face. I should have been paying attention.
So, as you can see, while I have exhibited some improvement, I’m still rather inconsiderate.
The whole Scrabble thing is an issue that I’ve heard discussed on numerous occasions when I’ve attended “live” tournaments. Isn’t it being rather duplicitous to wish your opponent good luck before starting a game? Let’s be honest here: You hope your opponent draws nothing but vowels and that all the good tiles land in your own rack. You hope your opponent is preoccupied about something else and misses all the juicy bingoes. Heck, you want to win! If you didn’t, why would you have spent all this money on entrance fees, hotel bills and travel expenses? So isn’t it a big fat lie when you wish your opponent good luck?
Several years ago, one of my Scrabble buddies filled me in on a socially acceptable solution to this problem. The answer, he says, is to say “here’s to a good game.” Therein lies the appropriate social nicety and an ambiguous turn of phrase, all wrapped up in a pretty little package with a bow on top. A good game for whom? We needn’t specify. It’s perfect, as it allows you to be polite without being a liar.
As for me, I usually introduce myself to my opponents, ask where they’re from and how they’re doing in the tournament, and then shut up. We’re here to play, and that’s what we do.
This particular online opponent, however, continues to take issue with my behavior and suggests that my failure to say “good luck” and “congratulations” is tantamount to being a robot rather than acknowledging my opponents as real people with feelings. And when I tried to mollify her by typing “good luck” at the start of our most recent game, she responded that I probably wasn’t being sincere and that most of what I write on this blog must not be sincere either.
Am I really supposed to be sincere in wishing my opponent good tiles and an excellent score? As for this blog, I will leave that judgment to my readers.
Perhaps I just need to come to a full stop at the end of the Wal-Mart aisle and look left and right before proceeding to reduce the likelihood of running over little over ladies. Perhaps I need to remind myself to stop dead in my tracks when I push open a door.
And if you expect that to happen, I say good luck. And I mean that sincerely.
After all, they don’t call me Inconsiderate for nothing.