Friday, September 23 2022

the dentist, the mall, and retro video games

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everybody. Happy Friday.

The little digital thermometer I have on my desk reads 65 degrees Ferenheit. It's funny how much of a difference just a few degrees makes, because this morning it feels like a totally new season - like autumn has finally descended.

In fact, it was so cozy and chilly in the house that I decided to just leave my bathrobe on and jump right into writing. Working at the computer in a bathrobe - does this set a dangerous precedent for my workdays? Sometimes I joke with people that I'm a professional "pajama worker", but I fear that might be coming true, especially with this final compromise on work attire.

Whatever. I don't even have any Zoom meetings today. Today, nobody will actually know if I decided to put on a real outfit. Not even you, reader.

Sip. It's a cozy day today, and it feels rewarding for the long week. I didn't even mention that our whole family has finished a round of dentist appointments. Rodney's routine cleaning was easy, and he took it in stride. Marissa and I, on the other hand, worried about what was festering in our adult mouths. Neither of us had been to the dentist since COVID.

I feel like I got lucky. I had no cavities, but the dentist found a spot in my teeth where the gums recede too far back. "It could be from grinding your teeth, brushing too hard, or it could just be genetic," she explained. Long story short, I need to return later this month so they can patch it with a little piece of skin. The teeth cleaning, as always, was excruciating, but at least I was done.

Marissa wasn't so lucky. The dentist found three cavities and recommended an extra-deep gum cleaning spread out over two visits on top of another visit to remove the cavities. Marissa has been to the dentist so many times this week that I've lost count of which visit she's on, but she's almost at the end of it.

In other news, I'm getting back in the mood to play video games. But Rodney and I had a problem - Miles broke one of our two Xbox controllers. I decided I'd take Rodney to Gamestop in the mall.

I knocked on Rodney's door at the end of the hallway. He was reading a book in his bed, wearing nothing but his underwear. As I cracked open his door, a slip of paper fell to the ground.

"That says 'Rodney is closed'," he said.

"Oh - sorry to interrupt, dude," I said politely.

"It's OK," he replied. "It's just for stealers to think that they can't come in."

I came into Rodney's room to invite him on a spontaneous errand to the mall. Knowing how badly he wanted to be rescued from quiet time, I dragged it out for my amusement.

"There's this video game store in the mall, but I have a problem - I don't have anyone to go with," I said.

Before I had even made my point, Rodney sprung out of bed and put on clothes.

A few minutes later, we'd find ourselves at Gamestop in Woodfield Mall. The employee smugly informed us that Xbox 360 consoles, supplies, and games have been completely taken out of all Gamestop stores. The news took me off-guard. The Xbox 360 isn't "new" by any standard, but I've never thought of it as "old". Now that it's been officially taken off the shelves at Gamestop, it's officially places it in the "retro" category.

So our trip to the mall was kind of a bust. No longer without a purpose, we bought two bags of Dippin' Dots and ate them while we wandered around. We passed by a console at the mall selling these little European legos. Rodney set his icecream aside and immediately started fiddling with a demo set. Like a shark catching the scent of blood, the toy salesman turned a corner and grinned at Rodney, waiting to be acknowledged.

But Rodney didn't look up. He just kept fiddling with the bricks in front of them. I didn't acknowledge the salesman either - I just kept taking bites of my icecream, and I pulled out my phone to look through my emails. We stood there for a few minutes sharing an awkward silence, then without warning Rodney pushed the blocks aside and we walked away.

Have you ever been harangued by one of those salespeople at a mall? One time at our mall in Madison these window cleaning people put the screws to me and Marissa. Since then, anyone with a landyard, a clipboard, or a square reader, I make it a habit of walking around them in a wide circle. But I've never thought about Rodney's tactic - simply not saying anything. Try that out next time.


A picture with the horse statues on the way out

Yesterday as work was winding down, I was in the mood for another adventure with Rodney. I found a retro gaming store closer to the city.

"I bet Facebook marketplace has controllers," said Marissa. I opened a tab on my computer to humor her.

"Nope. They don't have any," I whined, pretending to ignore the dozens of results on the page. "We just want to go to a store where we have choices."

"You're just gonna buy more games," laughed Marissa.

I peaked my head in Rodney's room. He was fiddling with a tray of LEGO's in bed. "You wanna drive to Chicago?" I asked quietly.

The question hit Rodney like a lightning bolt. He flung open his closet and dug out a new pair of clothes, and once again we were off.

We sat in traffic on I-90. It wasn't the most scenic drive, but we were both just glad to be out of the house. Rodney filled my ear with his own contrived explanations - how the spinning tower was controlling airplanes in the sky, and how the blue "I-90" sign meant that this road was patrolled by 90 police officers.

We parked down the street from the video game shop. They had an N64 plugged into a small CRT monitor. They had Rock Band guitars and drums on display. Seeing an original Xbox, Xbox 360, and a Dreamcast behind glass beside an Atari and Super Nintendo pulled me deeper into the present reality that I was now officially one of those thirty year old retro gaming guys. But at least I had my six year old son with me, so that made me feel less creepy.

We brought home a good haul from the retro gaming store: two extra controllers as well as Tekken, the Kung Fu Panda game, and a Star Wars game. It's going to be a fun weekend.

Thanks for stopping by today. Go play some video games - you deserve it.