So we have made it back in one piece. I am still trying to process everything that happened over the last several days. I'll attempt to collect my thoughts as best as I can and I'm sure there will be many more posts on this trip, but for now here's a random list (ahh lists, more calming to me than prozac).
1) The Heat: How do people live there?!? I was worried about this before the trip and my fears were founded. Sure the tournament was inside, but I felt like I was going to have a heat stroke in the middle of several games and it sure did not help my play. The Acolyte and I visited the site for registration purposes the evening before and it was actually pleasantly chilly. The morning before the tournament we each picked up a jacket for the cold to come. While the Arctic Acolyte continued to snuggle inside hers somehow, mine was off and on the ground within minutes of sitting down. The air conditioning just could not compete with the number of large sweaty bodies giving off heat and humidity. Thankfully, I was able to trade my jacket for a swimsuit thanks to a returns employee with a good sense of humor.
"Hi, I would like to return this jacket."
"Do you have the receipt?"
"No it caught on fire as soon as I stepped outside of the door because its Florida in July."
" Well I can't give you your money back, but you can get other merchandise of equal or lesser value."
"Like a swimsuit and a coke which I could actually use in this part of the earth?
"Yeah swimming pools and soft drinks don't usually catch on fire. They're pretty popular here."
"Done and Done Sir!"
2) The Ongoing Resignation Saga: So I had another incident. Some early tournament jitters, a series of challenges that went the wrong way, the heat and some twitchy synapses made for a very bad combination. The division director aggressively told me I could not, and when I reminded him of the rule that existed it was sit down and play or get written up and face nebulous and ominous consequences. Sigh... Whatever, we played the rest of the game out and my opponent's spread would have been better if he had taken the 50 points. I spoke to the head director after the round and she told me that "my" director had ruled incorrectly and if a similar situation arose again I would be allowed to resign. If only that had been the end of it. Apparently, resigning is something that some scrabble players feel as strongly about as other people do about abortion or gun ownership. There is not a lot of constructive dialogue, but there is a lot of passionate emotion and strongly held beliefs. Maybe I will come back to this later when I am farther from the events of the last few days, but for now, let's just say that plenty of %$#@ happened over and over concerning this issue, but I did not have to (attempt to) resign any more games.
3) The Melting Pot of Madness: I met three general kinds of people in my division. There were several really nice, well adjusted people. By this I mean that you could talk to them before, after and evening during the game and they would make conversation and even have kind things to share. I was immensely satisfied that the top three in the final standings were all people I could see myself interacting with in a non scrabble setting. Unfortunately, many of the others I met seemed like they would be more at home working for the DMV and/or yelling at Pigeons while drinking out of a paper bag and laying on a park bench. The creepy thing was how the stress and heat combined with the unnatural act of sorting words out of random scrambled letters for four days slowly turned some initially nice people mean and/or crazy. One lady I met seemed ok before our game and a little grumpy though still essentially human after I beat; lied to my face on the last day. thanks to the beauty of spread, I needed her to sign off on a score correction from our game a few rounds earlier. The initial score was a gap of 60, but she had gone over by a minute and half which would be a penalty of 20 points. I wrote the correct final margin on my sheet and so did she, but she filled out the official results slip as a loss of 60 instead of 80. I saw that it said I won so I signed it, since to me that is all that really matters. When I talked to her about what had happened later, she literally twitched, had a glassy expression come over her eyes and then said:
"No, no........I never go over on time."
"Well can we look at your score sheet please?"
"Hmmm, No I .....lost it........"
"But you have a stack of them from previous rounds right there."
"Not that one though.......Something happened to that one......."
This is where I began to back slowly away. Since I didn't feel like trying to grab the score sheet and run away with it. Who knows what a crazy person will do? The twenty points she stole did not change her final standing, but did cause me to finish one spot lower than I would otherwise. There were at least two other delightful individuals who were worse to deal with. One was convinced I was somehow using my duck and her little bag/couch to cheat despite it being a tightly cinched bag a foot away from the board with a duck sitting on top of it... Another refused to say a single other word other than commands like "Record your blank" "Confirm your score" and "It is against the rules to have any fun or not scowl and act like a computer." The percentages of these jerks seem to get worse as you advance in the ranks. Hopefully, I am close to plateauing and will still have enough people to have fun with at the level I have reached.
4) The Ongoing Photo Quest: Players' pictures are displayed both online and with pairings at scrabble tournaments. There are two main scrabble sites (more on this some time soon) but they are connected and there is no "good" reason why they should not be able to efficiently share and synchronize their information. One site has had my picture for months and the other which runs coverage for the national championship (among other things) has had "difficulties" for that long. While it took over two days and the taking and editing of a new picture I was able to finally get a picture up. One of the pleasant surprises I had during my trip was meeting the head of the technical support team. He also had noticed the surreal quality of the world of scrabble and like myself was a little outside and a little in. Anyways, we bonded and started to joke about our ongoing little talks. I was actually a little sad when my problem was finally resolved. My head does look a little fat in the picture though... I'm gonna send an email to my new friend and shoot the breeze. On that happy note, I'll take a break until next time when I finish the list and share the beauty of Russian peasants...