I happen to be one of the lucky people who spend 60+ minutes per day (which is an alltime low too, so pity me) in public transportation to get to work, five days a week of buses and trams. After so many years of commuting I have come to loathe it with a passion, being crammed into tiny spaces with lots of smelly people I never chose to meet in the first place, breathing down my neck or smashing their bagpack into my face as they pass my seat; preferably a single one, if I can help it. And it strikes me: PT is a little bit like the “massively multi-player” promise – lots of people, no real cooperation. Everyone is ever eager to catch an empty compartment before having to share one with somebody else.
I am the last one to complain about that, though. I consider it a twisted joke of fate that I should be so dependent on PT, truth be told I am a misanthrope on most days which is why I play MMOs and run an internet blog to reach out to the world behind the veil of blessed anonimity. Right.
Anyway, there I am sitting tired and wet in the tram (gotta love the rain) at 6PM on my way home, when I am joined by a 40-something mother and her little son. I usually stare out of the window, avoiding all eye contact, but I couldn’t help noticing the weird hairdo of the woman – the sort that makes you think somebody put a chamber pot over his head and then cut along the edges. The thing that cracked me up was that the kid had the exact same hair as she did, which made the pair appear like the freakish twins of some monks order on planet Zork or something. Hillarious.
Contemplating fashion trends in far-away galaxies, I was not ready for the conversation which ensued between the 5-ish years old kid and his mother. It was, you guessed right, about videogames and made me wonder fairly soon whether I had not indeed blundered into some fucking parallel universe without me noticing. But this was still the real world, I did check on my smartphone and the internet never lies.
So, the little boy started asking mommy if he’d be allowed to play “the game” tonight. Sadly, I never got enough info out of the conversation to guess at what game it might have been, Kirby’s Wonderland or Call of Duty 3 (which I doubt considering the mother’s hairdo). He kept nagging her about it, you could tell he was really into it. Mom not so. When ignoring him and the continuous repetition of “no, you won’t tonight” didn’t show desired effect, she started explaining: “No, you can’t play honey, these games will make you horribly sick again.” Instantly I did wonder: had this kid maybe played Wii-Sports at zero degree temperature in the backyard? Had he accidentally swallowed a button from his XBOX pad?
“Yes you will honey, they make children horribly sick”, she continued. “You remember the nightmares you got after that evening at Samuel’s house? That’s what the games do. You get really bad dreams and you can’t sleep anymore”. So, there you got it – only it didn’t end there. She went on explaining how games really spread this mysterious sickness and how it had befallen most of his friends in pre-school, that it was horribly contagious. And I could see it before my waking eye: the evil cyber-virus, spread by Koopa Troopas and piranha plants shooting out of green pipes. Beware the contagion!
All the while, mirrored in the window glass, I watched the little boy’s face. You could tell that he bought his mother’s shit and that it was really her humbug tale more than anything that started to scare him. I wondered how I would’ve felt if somebody had tried to convince me that Pacman and Wonderboy were out to get me at the age of five; how it would’ve poisoned one of the few places in my life that were safe – an untouched shelter, an island of my own. I wondered too, briefly, if I might get away with smacking someone straight in the face in the middle of a crowded tram, but scratch that.
I hate people like that; people who think to protect others is to scare them. People who scare others because they are scared and ignorant themselves. Parents who won’t give their children the chance to deal with the reality of the times they are born into, so they can be outcasts among their peers. People who don’t think or choose the lazy way. People cruel enough to cut their son’s hair like Matthew Broderick in friggin’ Ladyhawke.
I wonder what wild tales she is going to tell him when he starts asking to watch TV. Or play rock music, uh-oh. I hope Samuel invites him back real soon and that he has the sense to tell his mother he’s off to play football.