We were at our friends the Conners last night with a couple of other couples, and the evening ended with one of our favorite games, “25 Words or Less,” which is only now dawning on me as a most ironic choice… for there isn’t a shy, quiet person among us and most of us would probably be multiple Gold Medalists if there were Olympic events for things like gregariousness and talkativeness. In other words, this is a group of people where pauses – either thoughtful or awkward – are almost completely unheard of. I don’t mean to imply that it’s a night of mindless blather when we get together – but only that none of us should be regarded as a person of few words. In fact, that’s the last thing you would say about any of us, at least when we’re in a comfortable setting. (Were I in a roomful of heavy metal enthusiasts or with a bunch of guys interested only in talking about the best bait to use when fishing for bullheads, I would probably find myself with a bit less to say.)
So it occurs to me only the morning after that for this particular group of Olympian Talkers to play a game that revolves around succinctness is ironic- but I suppose a bit therapeutic as well! In “25 Words or Less” you are playing in teams, and we opted for men versus women. A card is drawn from the deck, and one person from each team looks at the same card and a list of five words on it…. the words occasionally might be in pairs, so a typical list might be: alligator, flat tire, Alabama, measles, & spaghetti….. and each of you calculates how many words you would have to speak as clues to get your teammates to guess those five words. . . and then you bid against each other until one of you finally says “do it.” The most words you can give are 25 – and the fewest (which would be incredibly difficult and scary) would be 5 – and the bidding takes you someplace between those two. I think the lowest the bidding ever went last night was 8 and the highest final bid was maybe 13. Once you start giving your word clues, someone from the other team is keeping track and counting down so you don’t go over the number you had bid. And there is a timer (I’m not sure for how much – maybe 60 or 90 seconds at the most) so there’s no time to waste.
A couple of words/clues stand out as especially sharp. . . including how Val got her teammates to guess “tickle” with two words: “me … Elmo” – or my clues for the word “stork” – “pregnancy . . . bird” – or Pastor Jeff’s clues for the word “famine” – “starvation . . . Biblical.” Which is not to say that we guys were nothing-but-brilliant. In fact, twice I bid 8 words but lost out. The first time it was because of the word “viper” – a toughie – which I hoped the guys would eventually guess from “serpent” and “poisonous” – but after guessing “cobra” “rattlesnake” “coral snake” “copperhead” and bunch of others, I tried “piper” – going for the rhyme – and sent them down the path of “charmer” and the like before time ran out. They never did come up with Viper, one of those words which does not come up in everyday conversation unless you happen to live in an especially hazardous neighborhood! The second time happened when I counted on the guys guessing “lizard” off of the clue “reptile.” (By the way, there is no limit to how many guesses your teammates can make- only on how many clues you can give.) They said alligator, crocodile, snake, amphibian, salamander, viper, cobra, chameleon, etc. but no one every quite managed to guess “lizard.” Finally, I said “gizzard” (you’re forbidden from saying “sounds like” or “rhymes with”, so you use rhyming clues at your own risk) which generated some odd expressions from my teammates before one of them (thanks, Jim) finally said “lizard.” But after all that, time was up before I could even attempt the last word. Arrrrrrrgh! I was suddenly reminded of how intensely competitive I get in situations like this – although I used to be even worse and would actually have to sort of grip my chair to keep myself from hurling myself through the window and running down the street screaming. Now I just clunk my head on the table in front of me a couple of times and go on with my life.
By the way, the best moment of the night for me and our team, in my opinion, was when I was limited to 9 clues for a list which included four semi-simple words and one stinker: chestnut. By the time I got to it, I had two clues left. But it turns out that I only needed one: I sang to my teammates “roasting” as it comes in the first line of “The Christmas Song.” My buddy Jim, of “lizard” fame, sang the rest of the line “on an open fire” and in the next split second Pastor Jeff chimed in with “chestnut”! Which really underscored for me that this game depends on both good clue-giving and sharp guessing from your teammates. One cannot win with just one half of that essential equation.
It turned out to be a spirited match – hard fought – and it ended with the guys victorious, although by a razor thin margin, which is as it should be with two such evenly matched teams. And only well after the fact did it occur to me that one of the best things about certain games is not so much when they play to our strengths as when they compel us to dig deep into ourselves for skills we seldom if ever use – as, in our case, using the fewest words possible. And who knows? Maybe if we could get more people to play “25 Words or Less” the world would quiet down just a bit – although come to think of it, there’s only certain people who need quieting down. And of course, I’m NOT one of them!