Category Archives: Verbal Archaeology

Blast to the Past

Normally I post on Saturdays or Sundays, but our weekend was a bit busy. The kids were home and that always trumps everything! Raising children was fun, but spending time with our adult children is even more fun, so we pack in as much as possible.

This weekend we did a bit more of the “remember when” than usual, including dragging in bits and pieces of the parents’ life B.C. (Before Children). For some reason, the kids seem to like looking into their parents’ odd behavior prior to the time when we fiendishly decided to get our enjoyment from warping our kids by exposing them to all things science fiction and Muppets.

This weekend’s main topic was Chuck E. Cheese. Sure, you say, every parent has Chuck E. Cheese stories, after all it’s geared toward kids. Wrong! The original Chuck E. Cheese was geared to yuppies. Or at least adult game players who couldn’t get enough of video games so we combined the two best parts together: pizza and games.

When the famous gaming and pizza parlour opened, it wasn’t a kid zone only and it had the world’s largest selection of real arcade games including Crystal Castles, Star Wars, Galaga, Phoenix, etc. Think Flynn’s from the original Tron. Jam packed with adults and we didn’t need an under 12 to get in.

It was a regular Friday lunch date for a fellow co-worker and I. We’d go and split the lunch special: a slice of pizza, salad and coke. She’d order water and take the salad; I’d get the Dr. Pepper and pizza. Then we’d split the 20 free tokens between us. Her favorite was Crystal Castles and I adored the Star Wars game. Not the current version with its snow speeders and AT-ATs or speeding through the forest nonsense, but the full on wire grid in an X-wing taking down the Empire version. It is still the only video game I’ve ever been able to play, break a million points, and put my name on the screen. In fact, when Bruce and I played it at Putt-Putt, I’d have to let him play first, just so he could get on the top ten screen for a few minutes. Chuck E. Cheese was our favorite cheap date. Order a pizza and cokes, split the 20 free tokens and have an hour or two of insane laughter as we battled light cycles, Tie fighters, alien ships, or colored ghosts.

Those were the days of true arcade games. Now it’s all flash and graphics and the games are basically similar with little to no variety. Over the years, Bruce and I have wandered in and out of a number of so-called game arcades, but nothing has ever topped those magical years at Chuck E. Cheese.

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How Addicted Are We?

Living in rural America has always presented certain interesting challenges, the least of which is obtaining any kind of reliable television broadcast or radio signal. One would imagine in today’s world of high-tech gadgets, such an issue would no longer exist.

Well, it depends. On whether it’s been raining, whether it’s a holiday weekend, whether anyone at the Internet company is actually interested in customer service or just making a profit.

For several years we struggled with the “big” companies trying to convince them that enough people lived and worked in rural America to make it worth their while to bring Internet to the boondocks. Finally we got their attention, but only for a little while. After the big guys decided that rural America didn’t bring enough profit, (so producers, farmers, ranchers, the people who feed the rest of America don’t deserve the same service), the smaller companies moved in and we finally arrived in the 21st century. But after a couple of years of good service and milking the rural community for all the profit there was to be had, instead of maintaining good customer relationships, the smaller companies went the way of the big companies and we’re pretty much back where we started — intermittent or no Internet at all.

Unfortunately, rural America is as addicted to the Internet as urban America. We miss our Netflix, we miss our tunes, and our news. Mainly we miss staying in touch with the rest of the world: ie. our families and jobs. For some of us, not having Internet access cripples our ability to further our education or continue our work. Just a few weeks ago, the continuing “blackout” of Internet service forced me to drive into a nearby town in order to sit at a fast food place while I completed an online class.

It’s frustrating anyway, but the idea of paying a monthly fee for services not received is beginning to really grate on my nerves. I can actually use that money for something else that will have long term dividends instead of pouring money down a black hole. Let’s face it, if I’m going to have to do my Internet surfing at a fast food restaurant, why am I paying a company to “provide” Internet access?

I don’t think it will take much more to convince my family we can do without this. After all, we have DVDS, there’s a Red Box nearby, and we are very fond of reading and writing our own stories. Yes, we’re from the “old” generation, who knows how to use our time creatively. I’m not sure the “young” generation could survive without their Internet and perhaps, that makes all the difference. While the older generation uses the Internet for research, the younger generation uses it for play. And children who lose their playtime get very cranky.

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