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Nostalgia in the Air

The night before a holiday is always a little hit or miss. I decided to go to my local Force center first because if a partners tournament actually happens in three weeks (because I fall for that every time!) I want to be as practiced as possible. However, there was nobody there. I waited a bit, chatted and eventually played one game with a family group that showed up. However, it was pretty obvious that they were going to have a quiet night. So I called over to FJ, was told they had about eight people there for the all night pass and I switched gears and headed over there instead.

As I walked up to the mall entrance I realized that it has been months since I've been here...definitely since before Christmas. It just hasn't felt the same in awhile. Razz and Tommy and Tyler have all moved on and the scene of regular players who used to play here every week has seemed to dwindle, so I haven't felt the same push to get here every weekend like I used to. However, there was nostalgia in the air tonight as I walked up to the entrance after several months away from "my second home".

When you walk into the mall it's a little sad. This place used to be thriving, but now many of the storefronts are empty and the minimal activity there seems to be sustained mostly by the laser tag center and the movie theater on the lower level. However, when I walk into this laser tag arena there is something in the air...and I'm not just talking about the typical smell of sweat and adrenaline. I'm talking about the whole vibe of familiarity, electricity, readiness and accomplishment that I feel from start to finish, briefing to scoreboard, here in the first place where I ever played laser tag. Although tonight there was something else in the air...I'm pretty sure it was the smell of corn chips.

Before we went in for my first game of the night I ran into Dan and the boys. A semi-regular here, Dan is a doting godfather to two younger boys, George and Joel, who I would see playing here and chat with every so often. This time when I saw them before the game they told me that in the previous round they had been totally slaughtered by the red team and asked me if I'd play on their team for the next game. I said yes. Then when I saw the group of teenage boys who had comprised the red team (some other familiar faces and the source of the corn chips in the briefing room) I knew that tonight I would spend my time being wingman (or should that be "wingwoman"?) to these kids and helping them to do well with their game. So I put my focus into distracting/occupying those older teens so the kids could get in some good shots and let me just say that I am very proud of them. George especially has gotten much more confident since last I saw them. And when some more players who were significantly older than them joined later in the night they were still holding their own quite well! I'm really glad to see that they are still showing up and still enjoying tag. Dan is really doing right by those boys by spending this quality time at tag with them. It's heartening to see that even though the group I was tight with a couple years ago has moved on, that there are still familiar faces whenever I show up here. So there was certainly nostalgia in the air tonight, but also promise that as time goes by and the names and faces change that some things will stay the same. Like the enjoyment I see as these kids learn to love the game too and become the next generation of players. :)

Once the kids had gotten their fill and the night went on with the older set it dwindled down to just me with three twenty-somethings, a guy and two girls. One of the girls was feeling a little deflated because she had come in last in every game she played this night. Well, we can't have that. So I teamed up with her and went into mentor mode, teaching her how to take the bases (which she had been completely oblivious to until now) and coaching her a bit throughout. When we left the arena and were back in the vesting room that girl was still saying "I probably came in last again" so I peeked my head out to check the scoreboard and smiled. I headed back to tell her "no, you didn't". She rushed out to see that she had pulled second place, beating the scores of the other two people she came with and she was absolutely BEAMING and so proud! This was a really awesome moment to watch. :)

So even though this was a relatively quiet night, some really cool moments happened. It reminds me that it isn't always about playing hard, sometimes it's just about enjoying the moment. And (circling back to the nostalgia) how lucky I have been to have had so many amazing moments with this game in the first place.

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