It’s tough being a Scrabble fanatic, with no one to compete against. So, I was excited when I learned that the Forest Park Public Library hosts Scrabble Night on the first Wednesday of the month. 

Sarah Beth Warshauer is the librarian who came up with the idea. She said there was something “cultish” about Scrabble, and noted it would provide a great way for patrons to get to know each other.

Being a librarian, Sarah Beth loves words, but, when it comes to Scrabble, she’s not “stellar on strategy.” Instead of scoring big points with two-letter words known only by Scrabble fanatics, she likes to make big words.

I used to be a Scrabble innocent, like Sarah Beth; I’d lay down lengthy words that didn’t count for much, only to nicely set-up my opponent for Triple Word scores. That was before I entered the cutthroat world of computer Scrabble, where I survived by memorizing many arcane words. Qintar, for example, is the monetary unit of Albania.

Scrabble Night attracted 11 players of varying levels of expertise. The opponent I drew was exceptionally good. She emptied her tray of seven letters on her second turn, earning a 50-point bonus. I was stunned. I had only seen a Scrabble Yahtzee a few times in my life. Desperate to keep pace, I gambled with words like “fakey” and “roquet”, which, to my relief, were in my opponent’s dog-eared dictionary.

Meanwhile, at another table Brandon faced off against his girlfriend, Vanessa. Like me, Brandon is a life-long enthusiast who has trouble finding opponents. He still has the deluxe Scrabble game, with the plastic turntable, that he got on his sixth birthday.

Vanessa, by contrast, is a Scrabble novice. She admits to liking the game but says she’s terrible at it. Though she got stuck with RQJIIII during one turn, she managed to score 100 points for the first time.

Stephanie was another player with little experience at Scrabble. Worse, spelling is not her strong suit. She is, however, addicted to our library and its vibrant programs. She likened it to a community center, with activities for everyone from newborns to senior citizens.

Stephanie walked into a very friendly environment on Scrabble Night; she also said she appreciated both the diversity of the players and their skill levels. Though it took an hour for Stephanie and her three opponents to complete a game, she was pleased that she placed four letter-words and scored in the 80’s.

Forest Parkers can thank themselves for the library’s innovative programs. If we hadn’t passed a referendum to increase funding, we wouldn’t have attracted talented librarians like Sarah Beth and her colleagues.

Sarah Beth is all about interactive programs that help strengthen the community. She has also ordered a Scrabble dictionary, so that players will no longer have to borrow my opponent’s “tear-stained” copy.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.