The future? Looks slightly jumbled to me
by Dale Short
Jun 05, 2014 | 630 views | 0 0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I saw a news article recently about a village in Africa where nearly all the men have been killed by the AIDS epidemic. As a result, the town is run entirely by women.

On certain mornings the women elders gather to drink several cups of a strong coffee-like beverage. After that, according to the article, “they sit in a circle and foretell the future.”

And I thought, THAT’s the kind of coffee I’ve been looking for my whole life. Lacking that consciousness-raising beverage, though, I’ve found the next best thing: the Word Jumble puzzle in the good ol’ Eagle.

My technique?

Step One: Glance toward the two five-letter words at the top. It’s important not to show any real interest, off the bat. Casual is everything. Ideally, one or both of the answers will reveal themselves like magic. If so, it’s time for ...

Step Two: Move quickly to the two six-letter words at the bottom. It’s OK to display a little perplexity at these, because for some reason a six-letter word is a ton harder to unscramble than a five-letter one. Go figure. Ideally, you’ll get at least one of the six-letters right within a matter of minutes. If not ...

Step Two-and-a-half: Regress to feeling like a dummy, and wondering why all your brain cells have forsaken you with age. Then, resolve to get to the bottom of the mystery: just why ARE six-letter puzzles several magnitudes harder to decipher than shorter ones? One way to solve this is by math, if you remember any. To calculate how many possibilities a five-word puzzle has, multiply five by 26 (for letters of the alphabet), and ... no, that’s not right. It’s got to be something involving exponents. 26 to the 5th power, maybe, which is 11,881,386. Which can’t be right, because only about one percent of the letter combinations actually spell something, so ...

So at this point, I know my consciousness level for today looks to be a coin-flip between a snail and a tortoise because I’ve reverted to my two worst qualities: beating myself up for not being able to do things faster, and getting side-tracked into wild goose chases with tiny details rather than staying focused on the subject at hand. However, on the rare good days when answers to the two six-worders swim into view with all the smooth, soundless efficiency of the old-fashioned eight-ball fortune telling device, it’s usually a hop, skip and jump to unscrambling the final answer.

At which point I predict my brain is starting to percolate and ready to kick some ... uh, ready to kick any suspicions I had about my brain cells being permanently on vacation. And then I can move on to the much desired...

Step Three: Humble yourself (again) to the wisdom of the Word Scramble gods, which is an invitation to relax and breathe deeply and avoid over-thinking, at which point the scrambled things of the world have a tendency to meet you halfway. Sometimes, even all the way, and life is especially good.

Then, it’s a joyous “Watch out, day!” I probably have the wherewithal to pace myself through eight hours of problem-solving, most of it at a keyboard, and feel pretty good about the result (even though very tired of keyboards) before my brain konks out from fatigue and bedtime seems a very worthy goal. If this proves not to be the case, there’s always:

Step Four: The ultimate wisdom from the patron saint of Word Scramblers (and keyboard puzzlers) everywhere ... Miss Scarlett O’Hara’s most timeless and memorable line.

“Tomorrow is another scramble.” Uh, make that “another day.”

Same thing.            

Dale Short is a native of Walker County. His columns, books, photos and radio features are available on his website, His weekly radio program “Music from Home” airs each Sunday at 6 p.m. on Oldies 101.5 and is archived afterward on his website.