Every Which Way But Lose

Friday, December 18, 2009

Certainly the monkey on my back must share the blame for the hassles I suffered that weeked, but the unholy quadrinity of Wancel, Mahnken, Gable, and Whitmarsh were equally to blame. All four would be attending the Redeye, thus preventing me from passing them up that weekend for number of games. Yes, there was still a lot of time before Nationals, when the winners would be determined, but given that these people did not seem to have lives outside of playing Scrabble, I needed to take every opportunity possible to gain some games on the field.

With obligatory Starbucking thrown into the mix, my holiday itinerary was complicated to begin with. PHL to TPA on Saturday evening, Scrabble on Sunday, then the first flight back on Monday so I could make a 3:45 flight out to Mexico City, via DFW. Throw in a storm that was billed as possibly being "historic", and all the ingredients were there for a chaotic weekend. Had I been aware of the storm earlier, I could have made things easier for myself, but there was one more factor in play, the release of Avatar. I had planned to see the film at midnight on Thursday, but late in the day my supervisor scheduled a 9:00 AM Friday meeting. That meant I had to plan to see the film at 11:50 on Friday at the closest theater, but when I arrived I was told it was not in 3-D! I couldn't abide that, so I took a ridiculously long lunch and saw the 1:00 AM show at another theater. I didn't get back to work until 4:00, and my life soon got more complicated.

News of the coming storm was prominently placed on the Google news site, and seeing that I immediately called Delta (after a long hold time) to see if I could get a flight out that night. Bad news--my 12:55 Saturday flight was already sold out. Worse news--all Delta flights out of PHL, Baltimore, and the New York airports were sold out. If it hadn't been for Avatar, I might have had a chance of getting out earlier, but now it was too late. Thus began three plus hours of hell.

The Delta agent booked me on a 6:15 flight out of Allentown that was still good, but because my return was on US Air, I had to try and make arrangements with them to get back to ABE instead of PHL, or I had to rent a car. I checked the car first, and I was surprised and miffed to learn that a car one-way from ABE to PHL was about $50, but the reverse trip was $100 more. I next tried Travelocity, to see if they could get my US Air flight changed, but their agent told me they had to check with US Air, and hold times exceeded 30 minutes. I hung up to see if I could figure something else out, but none of my ideas panned out, so I called back to cancel the whole itinerary.

A different Travelocity agent told me that because the itinerary was on two airlines, with Delta holding my money for both, they had to get approval from Delta for the refund. The agent wanted to call me back in 3-4 hours, so I said I would call Delta myself. This time I was on hold for sixty minutes. Sixty motherfucking minutes, and what happened? When I told the agent I wanted a refund, she transferred me to the refund department, which happened to be closed at that hour. I pressed zero hoping to get back to an agent, but I was promptly disconnected. MOTHERFUCKING BITCH FROM HELL!!! SHE KNEW THAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN!!! I HOPE SHE BURNS AND DIES FOR ETERNITY!!!

Back to Travelocity, where I asked the agent to take care of the refund. She told me she'd have to call me back in 3-4 hours to confirm, but, as you can guess, that call never came. By that point it was past 9:00 PM, and I had long since stopped working and closed out my timesheet. All I was doing there was wasting time and not getting anywhere, and I did not want to try to make any other plans without knowing the status of whatever flight looked good. Also, the building would close at 10:00, so I left, went home, and decided to wait until morning to see if I could still get to Tampa.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Got up and immediately realized that call confirming the Delta cancellation had never come. I went to their website, put in my confirmation code, and saw that I was still booked. Bastards. Nothing to do at that point--I hoped to better handle it with a live agent at the airport. Of course that meant actually getting on a flight, and so I looked again to see if that Air Tran from Allentown to Orlando was available. It was, and by 10:00 AM I had booked the flight, packed, and left the house.

Hardly any snow at all where I was, and I hoped the same would hold true for Allentown. Stopped in Pennington for coffee and left the key in the ignition so my laptop would stay powered so I wouldn't have to shut it down. If I did, then the application I use to play video and DVDs, VLC Media Player, would lose track of where the DVD was, and I would lose a few precious seconds that I needed to watch Lost. I was trying to rewatch (for, like, the third time) all 103 episodes by February 2, and I needed all the viewing time I could muster.

Just five minutes inside, and wen I returned the battery was dead!!! What the hell??? The snow made it hard to push the car, but I was able to get it going with the help of of helpful men. But I left worried about what might happen when I returned from Tampa, or even worse, from Mexico. After a week in the cold, I suspected that weak battery might fail on me. So instead of heading straight to the airport, I took my car to the Honda dealership near Allentown and got a new battery, and then over to Target for a shovel in case I needed to dig the car out of the parking lot.

I finally reached the airport around 3:00, and, as you have probably guessed by now, my flight was cancelled. Oh joy.

First things first, I headed over to the Delta counter to get my refund. The attendant took care of it in a few seconds, quickly crediting the money back to my card. If you'll remember, I was on the phone for about three hours on Friday night trying to get that refund, and this guy does it in seconds. Fucky Delta and fuck Travelocity too.

I'm sure Air Tran sucks just as bad as those others, but that afternoon they were actually able to help me. The agent found am early morning flight for me directly to Tampa, from Pittsburgh. Had to take care of a few more details first though, for that plan to work. I had to get online and see what the price of a car would be one-way to Pittsburgh. About $36, not bad. Then I had to go over to the US Air counter and see if the agent could change my switch return flight to Tampa from Orlando. As you might expect, that agent was unwilling or unable to help me, because their flight on the 21st from Florida was not considered to be affected by the storm hitting the northeast. I was on my own there, so I had to investigate a one-way car from TPA to MCO. Damn--88 bucks--expensive. This trip was getting ridiculous, but I couldn't back out. I need those six games, and I needed to continue setting an example of perserverence... you know, for the children.

By the time all my arrangements were made, I was looking at 300 miles to Pittsburgh. Maybe 4 to 4 1/2 hours in the best of weather, but with the snow out there I knew I'd be lucky to beat seven. When I arrived to sleep either in the car, in the cold, or in the terminal, on the hard floor, I wasn't going to get nearly enough sleep before heading into the tournament. Given all that, to push on was really insane. But here's the thing--I've been accused of a lot of things (many involving youngish girls, terrorism, or penguins), but nobody has ever accused me of being sane.

Thankfully, the snow lightened up after a few hours, and after stops for food and gas, it was round midnight, maybe earlier, when I finally reached the Pittsburgh airport and parked the car in the rental return area. As I expected, the terminal was full of passengers, so I returned to the car to try and sleep where it was quiet.

At some point in the middle of the night the cold made sleeping impossible, and I had to head into the terminal to find a spot in the baggage claim area. As you can imagine, when check-in time arrived, I was one tired puppy.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The flight was delayed, and by the time I retrieved the rental car and exited the parking garage, it was very close to 10:00. If I went that new Starbucks in Bradenton, I was going to be risking not only the first round, but maybe the second. I decided to wait until after the tournament to make that detour.

Postponing the detour left me plenty of time to reach the tournament site, but you probably already know how that story goes. In the process of orienting myself I reviewed the photos I had taken of the nearby Starbucks, and I discovered that all of them were crappy. I still marvel at just how crappy my early photos were.

The three stores were all within a half-mile of each other, but by the time I located Bay Street and International Plaza, I had to call John Green for third time and give him yet another status update. Didn't make it to the Compass by 11:00, of course, bu I was still in time to face my first opponent, Bob Newhart--oops, I mean Blyer---with a full clock. Not that I needed it with the crazy good tiles I drew. Of course, I was aided by my obligatory sub-1200 phony, DIVISIN(G). What's really funny though is that I failed to played DIVINIS(E) for more points (kinda saw it, but had no idea if it was good).

My game against 1090 Gary Russell was a picture-perfect example of how even a game against somebody rated nearly 800 points below your peak can be almost unwinnable. I have to stress almost because I did miss a bingo. After six straight perfect turns, I missed LIT(T)ERER. From that point, the game was truly unwinnable, and I was saved only by the fact of Russell's missing any of a number of winning final plays.

Annotated Game

Double-blanked by The Other Bailey (Justin), but with a couple of high-scoring naturals, 91 and 80 points, I was able to stay well ahead. Despite this, I still could have lost the game if I had not blocked the bingo line he opened. Obvious to higher-rated players, but it never ceases to amaze me how I still win games against lower-rated players simply because they failed to block the bingo line.

Annotated Game

The lack of a lunch break turned out to be convenient for me, because finishing early would give me a better chance of getting down to Bradenton before the sun set. Still, I had to eat, so I rushed off and grabbed a couple of slices from a Captain's Pizza on Main St. No good beverage choices in the case, so I decided to try Coke Zero for the first time ever. Ugh, yuck. Why can't Coke just stick to basics.

Because John was pairing after each round, I had plenty of time to play Joan Knobelsdorf. But again, like the Blyer game, my draw was overpowering. Finally then, it was time for the lone real player in the field, Steve Glass. Steve bingoed first, STORIES, but he exchanged twice, and this allowed me to stay close. I could have virtually tied the game with (W)AVED, but I decided to test his word knowledge, and I played (W)AVETOP* instead. Well, as he told me later, Steve had just studied his Ws, and he challenged without hesitation. If Scrabble were fair, that blunder would have cost me the game. But Scrabble is most certainly not fair, and after playing (W)AVED I drew EOOMPT? just as Steve decided to give me a gift, R(AIN) for 4 points. I did not see PrOMOTE or cOMPOTE and instead played METOPOs*, confusing it for the real bingo. Amazingly, Steve let me hav it, and with the momentum I was able to hold on for the win.

Annotated Game

Steve again in the final round, of course, for all the marbles, and the game opened with a shocking development. After staring at ALEXInS for about seconds, I pulled it back and decided there had to be a better bingo. I found it, aLEXIAS under HM, for a few extra points, and an amazing bonus--an extra turn!!! Never in a million years would have expected Steve to challenge that. My next play blocked his bingo, and when he finally got one down I came right back with REALTER(S). I held the momentum through the middle game, and when I found UNMIT(R)ED, it was all over but the crying.

Annotated Game

Just 40 points gained because of the field, but still, I would much rather go into Albany at 1740 than at 1700. If I had a good tournament, I would be that much closer to a new peak. I'd have to say that the trip was well worth the incredible hassle that I went through to get there.

I rushed off to visit that Bradenton store, where I discovered that trip was not yet over. I had left my phone charging behind the sink!!! Given where I had placed it, I figured it had gone unnoticed, and I began to think about how quickly I could get to a Sprint store. Still, I had to try John and see if had gotten luck, and it turns out the man must have eagle eyes--he had seen the phone and was ready for my call (from a phone borrowed from a young man at the Starbucks). I had to pass through St. Petersburg anyway, so dropped by his place to pick up the phone was not that much of a detour, and well worth it to avoid being without a phone (which makes me feel naked and vulnerable, like a newborn meerkat).

Opponents' Bingos

My Bingos

Missed Bingo Turns


#1 - W - Blyer    
6.5 HINGE  
0 O(D)EA  
3.1 CApErED  
2.9 JEED  
1.2 (C)ZAR  
0 BOG  
0 RUN  
3.4 L(U)DE  
6.1 TAV  
17.4 F(IN)  
7 MI  
#2 - W - Russell    
0 JEU  
0 A(J)EE  
0 EQUAT(E)  
0.7 BRO  
0 OP  
38.1 ER  
1.2 ID  
4.7 RIT(Z)  
0 VO(X)  
1.5 W(A)R(N)  
0 (YO)WL  
11.5 (O)M(I)T  
0 (A)G  
#3 - W - Bailey    
6.4 BLA(Z)E (Z)EBEC!!!
9 C(U)NT  
0 Y(E)W  
8 I(S)LE  
0 (F)EY  
2.3 (V)IVIDEST  
4.1 Q(I)  
0 KI  
0 NOR(I)  
#4 - W - Knobelsdorf    
5.9 ACID  
7.4 SOX  
0 (W)AVY  
0 B(A)G  
1.7 YAR  
5.7 G(O)D  
6.3 CH(U)RN  
2.3 QU(A)I  
0 KE(Y)ED  
0 AIS  
#5 - W - Glass    
1.1 WIELD  
0.7 (R)AIA  
0 AI  
9.7 SIN  
6.4 BRA(ID)  
0 HOG  
27.8 lose turn ((W)AVETOP*)  
0 (W)AVED  
0 QAI(D)  
0 PI(Q)UED  
0 YE  
0 (JO)G  
#6 - W - Glass    
16.7 NICE AEONIC/(a)E/(L)O/(E)N/(X)I/(HI)C
0 GOOD  
11.3 (B)RAY YEAR/(GO)Y/(ON)E/(OD)A (board vision was crap)
6.7 REALTER(S)  
0 FINE  
0 BAT  
5.2 (R)ITZ  
0 WO  
9.9 W(H)O  
4 S(I)C  
0 G(R)UE  
0 (V)IE  

1 - W - 9.8 (157.5)
2 - W - 3.8 (57.7)
3 - W - 8.6 (111.5)
4 - W - 6.6 (91.8)
5 - W - 3.7 (56.2)
6 - W - 3.9 (53.9)

Avg: 6.1

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