There’s this meme that’s made it’s rotation through my Facebook feed a few times now, which sums up the gist of this article. Of course there are a few different iterations, but here’s the basic premise:
Usually, the sentiment is only true for me in a theoretical sense, as I have little opportunity or cause to hang out with 20-year-olds, but it became a stark truth, like the Voice of God, last weekend. We were in El Paso for the occasion of an old friend’s wedding, and as the groom had had nothing in the way of a “bachelor party,” a group of us decided to go out for a couple of drinks and some retro-arcade video gaming at this 80s-themed bar called Rubik’s.
Now, perhaps it is telling enough that our “bachelor party” of choice involved playing video arcade games, drinking one or two beers, and a readiness to be in bed by 1 am at the latest. But you must understand: with the exception of the groom and his younger sister (a decade his junior), we gamers were all married already; our wives were waiting for us in our respective hotel rooms. We were all in that bracket of the 30s that rounds up to 40, and furthermore, we had already spent our 20s in a state of perpetual bachelor-partying, so honestly, the prospect of strippers and drunken debauchery over the span of a lost weekend seemed far less appealing than getting to bed at a reasonable hour.
These feelings were only compounded as the night went on. The barcade was mainly a watering hole for students of UTEP, so we groomsmen had at least a decade on most of the patrons in there. Mingling around coin-operated relics like Pac-Man, Frogger, Tetris, Kung Fu, and Tron, I felt like I was in a time machine, while most everyone else in there was in a museum. While my friends and I were saying, “Wow! Remember this?” Everyone else was just saying, “Wow! This!” And the girls. Here and everywhere were these tiny and delicate things, scantily clad with drinks in hand, laughing maybe a little too hard at this knucklehead’s cheeky remark or obnoxious body language. 20 years ago, that knucklehead would have been me, desperately clamoring for her… attention. On this night, however, all I could think was, “does your father know where you are?”
Similarly, somewhere in that 20-year gap, a change had come over me in relation to the games themselves. I started the evening with $10 in quarters. This was partly because that was the smallest increment available at the ATM, but I also felt that was a fair limit to the evening. By the end of the night, I was down a grand total of $4, and I’m pretty sure at least 75 cents of that was lost on the floor when a bunch of quarters fell out of my pocket in one of the sit-down racing games like Pole Position or something. I never spent more than 50 cents (1 “continue’s” worth) on a single game, and while I looked fondly and with nostalgia on almost every machine in there, that’s pretty much where it stopped: a look and a smile, like an old lover, who is now also 10-years married with children: you smile; you reminisce; you don’t trade contact info. The few games I did play, I lost quickly (as I always had), but now I didn’t care. Where once these things had seemed so important to me, compelling me to endlessly feed their slots with my parents’ money, trying evermore to achieve some arbitrary, 8-bit goal, infuriating me with the piss-poor play control… now there was only a chuckle, and a thought of, “oh yeah, I remember how shitty this was.” One or two games did have me wondering how I had even been capable of the maneuvers I used to pull on them, but then again, that wasn’t me, after all. That was some hot-headed punk who pounded the screens when “the game cheated” or “the button didn’t work.” I am someone else. Someone who was wondering why I’m walking on a floor sticky with beer, shouting to be heard over a million decibels of A-Ha, feeding money to machines, and bumping into some poor bastard’s hyper-mature daughter, when there was already a beautiful woman waiting for me in a hotel room. And not for the activity you might think—I’m talking about someone who wants to have her way with me… in gin rummy.
Apparently the other fellas all figured the same thing out as well. We couldn’t have been at the bar for more than an hour before we left, having consumed nearly two whole bottles of beer among us. My wife was still awake when I got back to the room. So now what the hell am I going to do with 6 bucks in quarters?