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Effortlessly Average

Sort of half-heartedly leading the charge into mediocrity since, oh, let's say around 1987 or so.

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Location: Roaming (additional charges may apply), Argentina

Proof that with internet access and a powerful laxative, even insipid people will blog; the place where your excellence and my mediocrity collide; where my Karma whips ass on your dogma.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Why I Own Stock in Tylenol

My son came downstairs in an angry tizzy.

"AAAAGGGGGHHHH!!! This video game cheats!!!" [tears and much carrying on]

"What's the problem?" I asked.

"It cheats, that's what's wrong!" More tears and general carrying on.

"Yes, Son, so you’ve said. But HOW does it cheat?"

"It told me I had to perform three combo tricks in two minutes, which I DID. I DID!! AND IT WON'T LET ME MOVE ON! Aggghhh! [more crying and hyperventilating]."

"Ok, son, look," I said as the voice of reason “there’s no way the game is programmed so that you can’t beat it. We have this conversation every time you get a new game and can’t immediately be a pro. But every time, you also figure it out. This time won’t be any different. Just take a break from it and calm down. I’m sure you’ll figure it out. You always do.”

“No, I try that all the time and I don’t think it’ll be different later.” [sobbing]

“All the time? Son, you got that game less than 24 hours ago. How could you possibly have tried everything already?”

“I just have, Dad.”

“Son, that game was not programmed to be unbeatable. It’s supposed to be hard so that you’ll continue to play it day and night, which, by the way, you’re already trying to do. Just take a break and calm down. All the games you’ve gotten that you beat immediately sit in the cases for a year until we get rid of them. Why? Because they’re too easy so you get bored with them. But the games that are harder are still among your favorites.”

“But dad, I’ve tried everything” stressing the word “everything.” [sob sob sob sniff].

[Patience waning] “So what you’re saying, son, is that the game is purposely programmed to piss you off and that there’s absolutely nothing – not ONE THING – that you haven’t tried and nothing – not ONE THING – works. Then why keep it? We should just return it to Blockbuster and be done with it like everyone else who’s rented it and been defeated. I guess that means we won’t have to worry about you saving your allowance to buy this one since apparently you’ve already advanced as far as can be done because they intentionally wrote the game to be unbeatable. Obviously, son, you haven’t tried everything. So work on trying combinations you haven’t tried yet and I’m absolutely certain you’ll figure it out.”

“But dad-“

I revert to the I’ve had enough with reason stage: “alright that’s enough with the game today. Go outside and play. Now.”

“I don’t wanna, Dad.”

“I don’t care, son. You need some exercise. Now go.”

He trudged to the door with the head low, heavy-footed gate of someone who recognizes the injustice of his entire existence and feels helpless to change it. Ten minutes later I heard the back door open and close. My son tossed his shoes into the shoe basket next to the door, looking for all the world as if his ten minutes outside is all the fresh air he needs. On some level I understand the feeling. I apply the same principle to my workouts, biking only so far as to burn off enough calories to justify the Dr. Pepper I intend to have as soon as I dismount that stupid thing. At least he’s gathered his composure again.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m coming back in.”

“No you’re not. You’ve only been outside for ten minutes.”

“But dad-“ I silently point in the general direction of the backyard. My son gave me a look of consternation, but grabbed his shoes and sat down on the couch to put them back on.

“How long do I have to stay out?” he asked, like a convict wanting to know how long his latest infraction was going to land him in solitary.

“I’m not going to give you a schedule. Just go outside and play.” Then I pulled an ‘I’m my father’ moment: “You know, I don’t get it. When I was a kid you had to drag me inside at the end of the day. I’d be gone from dawn to dusk and still beg for more time outdoors.”

“Yeah, Dad, so you’ve said. But times are different now. This is the future. There’s better technology than you had 60 years ago.”

Woah, wait. 60 years? Sixty?! Do I look 60, for crying out loud? Do I act 60!? Can you tell by my mixing of punctuation how incredulous I am? I realize I appear ancient to them, but I still insist I’m younger to them than my father was to me when I was 10. Then I realize, no, from a purely chronological standpoint I am, in fact, older. When my father was my age, I was already in high school. But that’s different, right? I mean, my father was old when I was my son’s age. He’d already started wearing black socks with shorts and had long since been listening to twangy country music. I still dress in blue jeans, only wear black socks to work and listen to the likes of Pearl Jam, Linkin Park, and Green Day, among others. His taste in cars centered around big and boat-like; his taste in motorcycles leaned more toward touring. Conversely I like sports cars, Jeeps with no doors, and riding motorcycles built for speed, like this one, my most recent toy:

Sadly, however, this toy didn’t survive it’s confrontation with that SUV on the 91 Freeway in Los Angeles, but hey, at least I did. Old? P-sha. I'm not old. I'm seasoned. I'm wise for Chrissake.

Thirty minutes later. FlyBoy came in to insist that I come outside to see what they’d been doing for the last half hour. Sure, why not? They had raided the storage shed and stretched my good tow straps between the trees to make a “ride” for their stuffed NeoPets toys. Oh man, couldn't they have picked something else to play with? See, we have trolls in our neighborhood. It can't be anything else because anything portable and strangely looking like a toy will disappear if left outside overnight. I didn’t want my expensive nylon tow straps to share that fate. The kids insisted they’d ensure they were back in the shed when they were finished. And hey, they were now outside and seemingly enjoying themselves so I guess I should be happy.

Several minutes later I'm at the computer writing this blog when my son came back in.

“I’m bored. Can we come in yet?” WTF? You two were just outside having fun. Now ten minutes later it's 'can we come in?' Where's the Tylenol?

“No, you’re only bored because you’ve handed your brain over to the likes of television producers and video game programmers and as a result have lost your ability to entertain yourself.”

“No, dad, I just can’t think of anything to do.”

“Ok, how about some ideas? You can go upstairs, get your Hot Wheels cars and some Lincoln logs. Build a town in the back yard and pretend to drive around. Or, go get your army men and you and Salem can set up two opposing forces and toss pebbles at each other’s army to see who wins.”

A look of skepticism from Flyboy.

“Or,” I continued, “you could get your Bionicles. We have a big back yard with all kinds of terrain. You could pretend that each area of the yard is the habitat for each kind of Bionicle. Or you could go to the shed, get the sidewalk chalk and draw on the front walk.”

“Can’t we do those things inside?”

"No, you can't use sidewalk chalk inside."

"That's not what I mean, Dad. Can't we do those other things inside?"

“No, you can’t. Now go on, Bud; go get something to do.”

He started for the stairs. I knew that when his brain once again took over for itself and abandoned the expectation of being pandered to by the television, they’d come back in laughing and looking for all the world as if they’d just had the time of their life. I toyed with the idea of laying some philosophy on them when that time came. “See?” I’d say, “now you have a memory of something you did, not just something you saw on tv.” To which I’m sure I’d receive the infamous eye-roll they genetically inherited from their mother. So I decided to keep my fatherly – nay, worldly – statements to myself, complete in my certitude that history would vindicate my actions as instances of true leadership.

“You guys going to be ok for a while tonight?”

FlyBoy stopped halfway up the stairs. “Where are you going?”

“Your mom and I are going out tonight on a date. Someplace without kiddies.”

“You are?”

“Yes truly. We’ll only be gone for a few hours though.”

“When are you leaving?”

“In a couple hours.” [I thought, he’s going to be upset about being alone that long or perhaps that someone else was going to be having fun without him.]

"WHAT!! Two hours? We have to spend two more hours outside?!" [there’s that mixed punctuation again.]

"No, you don’t have to necessarily be outside until we leave, but you’re not coming inside just yet. It’s a beautiful day out today; you should be happy be to have that chance because it’s going to start turning cold soon.”

He gave me a look of weary exasperation.

“Ok, I’ll tell you what. You can go outside for a little while longer or come in and I’ll give you some chores to do. The house could really use some extra cleaning.”

He continued up stairs for an outside toy “Fine, I’ll go outside.”

“Smart kid.”

- The Number of People Stunned by My Mediocrity