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Commentary: Why I Keep Yahtzee in My Backpack

REBEKAH ROBINSON, HOST: In the final commentary piece of our season, Uptown Radio’s Lucy Grindon tells us about the most surprising things you’d find if you searched her backpack.


I carry a dice game around with me at all times. It’s a simple game with straightforward rules that combine probability, strategy and pure chance. What’s the name of the game, you ask? It’s called Yahtzee.

All you need to play Yahtzee are paper scorecards, pens, and five dice. Actually, all I need are the pens and the dice, because I have the scorecard memorized. It goes ones, twos, threes, fours, fives, sixes, bonus, 3 of a kind, 4 of a kind, full house, small straight, large straight, Yahtzee, and chance.

At my parents' house in Los Angeles, we keep our scorecards, our dice, and two blue ink Pilot Precise V7 Yahtzee pens wrapped in a green placemat in a kitchen drawer next to our other miscellaneous stuff. We’ve got yellow highlighters, binder clips, postage stamps. Most people would call this drawer the junk drawer. In my family, it’s the Yahtzee drawer.

When I’m home, I play Yahtzee with my mom at least once a day. Sometimes we talk while we play, but other times, we play because we’re too tired to talk anymore, and we just still want to spend time together.

We'll be sitting at the kitchen counter, and one of us will say, "Do you wanna play Yahtzee?" The answer is always yes.

Sometimes, when I’m not at home, my mom will sit at the kitchen counter and play Yahtzee by herself. She calls it “Yahtzee Solitaire.” I’ve tried it, too, but it just makes me sad. For me, the point of playing Yahtzee is to connect with another person.

I’m in grad school right now, studying journalism in a pretty tough program. I’m often so overwhelmed with work that I feel like I don’t have time to connect with other people. Getting all my assignments done sometimes just feels impossible, so I just keep my head down and try to plow through, which can be pretty isolating.

Earlier this semester, I had this one really bad day. I knew I hadn’t done a very good job on my latest story, I was drowning in deadlines, and I was just feeling down on myself, and pretty lonely.

After my class ended that night, I stayed behind to do some more work. Another student, David, was the only person left in the classroom with me. We’d both had a long day, and he probably just wanted to go home, but once we’d both finished what we were working on, I turned to him, and I said what I always say to my mom: "Do you wanna play Yahtzee?"

I really expected David to say no, but he said yes! So, I reached into my backpack, I pulled out my dice, and I taught him how to play. He was a total natural. And, more importantly, he loved it. Since then, we’ve played a few more times, and we’ve become pretty good friends! I can talk to him when I’m having a difficult day, and I can be honest about feeling overwhelmed by school.

When I ask someone new if they want to play Yahtzee, it’s really an invitation to friendship.

I hold onto all the scorecards from the people I’ve taught to play over the years. I keep them in my backpack with my pens and my dice in small, clear old Ziploc bag. I have seven scorecards now. From Cecilia, Elena, Dylan, John, Caroline, Isabella, and now David.

Carrying those filled scorecards helps me to feel less alone, like my friends are with me, but the blank scorecards are really important, too. They remind me to keep myself open to the possibility of new connections.

After grad school, I know I’ll still be busy, and I’m sure I’ll sometimes feel overwhelmed and alone. But I’ll keep carrying Yahtzee in my backpack, and hopefully, I’ll find people to use the blank scorecards.

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