Protecting us in the 'Burbs
I’m fine with his games of make-believe, as long as he isn’t too tired to take out the garbage when he’s finished playing.
But when my son Matt invited him and a few friends for a game of urban warfare, I assumed he meant they’d all gather on the couch with their controllers and battle it out on the big screen.
I was wrong. My son was talking about a game of Airsoft, a live-action simulation of “Call of Duty,” where a bunch of mostly 20 and 30 year olds play war at a warehouse in Stockton.
“Are you crazy?” I asked my husband sweetly. “You’re 30 to 40 years older than those guys and you haven’t even played Ping Pong in years, let alone Paintball.”
“It’s not Paintball,” he argued. He was right about that. It’s worse. The teams use tiny plastic BB pellets instead of soft plastic paintballs.
“Besides, I’ve always done extreme sports like this.” He was right about that too. In addition to playing numerous paintball games, my husband has rappelled into deep holes, spelunked through dark caves, bungee-jumped off bridges, leapt out of high-flying airplanes, driven midget race cars, and even climbed one of those rock walls like they have at Chuck E. Cheese.
But that was then, when he wasn’t twice the age of the guys he’d be playing with.
I had no choice but to let him go, as long as he promised to take out the garbage when he got home. But when he walked in the door after the six-hour event, I was shocked to see his body covered with hundreds of red welts.
“Whoa,” I said as he collapsed on the couch. “What happened to you?”
“Oh these. They’re no big deal,” he said through gritted teeth.
“Was it fun?”
“It was awesome—like playing a video game, only live. They gave us pistols, rifles, shotguns, and Uzis, and then divided up into two teams—the commandoes who play a lot and get to wear camouflage, and the insurgents, mostly rookies like us who just wear dark clothes. Then we all ran around this warehouse that was filled with plywood walls, open windows, alleyways, and abandoned cars. It was like playing in a small city. In fact, the real SWAT teams train there.”
After taking a few Tylenols, he went on sharing his war stories. “At first the guys were gung-ho, planning strategies like football plays, but the moment the first game started, it was every man for himself. Guys were running all over the place. Our team got slaughtered. Luckily we get to respawn.”
“Were you the oldest?” I asked.
“Yep, by about twenty years,” he said proudly, before checking his welts in a mirror.
“Any regrets?” I asked, as he switched on the laptop and started watching a videotape of the game my son had just put up on YouTube.
“Yeah. My own son shot me in the face. I can’t wait to get him back.”