Some people went to Florida for their spring break, John and I went to Springfield, Missouri. From Springfield to Springfield in 7 hours. We pulled off of I-44 and onto the main strip of the city. Instead of staying with someone on campus we got a ground level, corner room at a small motel. From the window we had an amazing view of the mall parking lot directly across the street. Once we had our stuff in the room and picked out our beds we drove over to the University to let Toni know we were there…um, John was there. I was just Jimmy Olson in this Superman/Lois Lane scenario.
Our check-in at the school with Toni was quick and since our break didn’t coincide with her break, she still had work to do. I was trying to figure out if it was just me or if the meeting felt just as awkward to them. I decided it was just third wheelitus and I ignored it. We found ourselves back at the room and in the days before cable in your hotel room we got really bored, really quick. The mall beckoned and we walked across the busy road with its’ middle ‘suicide lane’ where traffic from either direction could enter to make a turn or play an impromptu game of chicken. Malls were still a new idea back then and as much social centers as places to shop. They were like the old market places where people would spend a better part of their day catching up on news, buying, selling, and swapping stories. They’ve given way now to strip malls where we can just spend our money, get what we want and get back home as quickly as possible.
At the center of the mall we found the teenager mecca: the video arcade. Before Xbox and Playstation, even before Nintendo there was the arcade. It’s where Pac-Man was born and every mall in America made room for these quarter hungry gold-mines. At home, at White Oaks Mall, we’d spend our parent’s money and when we had to we’d spend our own playing Galaga, Asteroids, Break Out, Battle Zone, Defender and whatever else was new and cool that week. One of my favourites was a sword fighting game that I’ve never seen since and probably wasn’t as cool as it is in my memory. That weekend in Springfield, MO we discovered a game I’d also never seen before or since. It could be played by one or two people and the object was to protect some squares that represented your inventory from marauding bandits who would swoop in, grab it with their ships and then fly off the screen to freedom with your stuff. Once all your stuff was gone, off-screen, it was game over. John flew his ship, me mine and we defended our stuff. An hour and several quarters later we were finished and it was finally time to check back in with Toni.
Over the weekend I’d spend some quality alone time in that arcade while John was out with Toni. I was surprised though that John had a lot more time than I thought he’d have when we were there to hit the arcade with me. Late Friday, after the mall had closed and we’d protected our stuff from the thieves for a couple more hours, we went back to the room and went to bed. In the dark we each stretched out on our own beds, closed our eyes and started the kind of late night conversations that guys engage in when they know nobody else is listening, especially girls. In the darkness I closed my eyes and heard John start laughing. “I can see the video game on the back of my eye lids.” He said. I laughed out loud because I saw the same thing when I closed my eyes. I fell asleep listening to another John story and watching the marauders trying to steal my stuff from inside my eyes as I silently vowed NOT to play as much video the next day.
I had no idea that the next day would be my first experience smoking pot.
To be continued…