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July 6, 2011 / jwaxo

SkiFree (Big Purchases)

Here it comes. Any second now. Going to eat me.

Whew, enough of those deep, faux-philosophical blog posts. Here’s a simple story where I learned a lesson that probably wasn’t there to begin with, posted hastily tonight before I go visit my brother and his family in Texas.

Hot, hot Texas. Nothing like muggy Portland.

The first computer we ever had eventually turned into the kid’s computer, mentioned several times throughout these chronicles. In order to replace something, though, you need something to replace it with. So, sometime around 1995, my family started shopping around for a new computer.

The funny thing is, when you’re a little kid, you may not even realize that this is what your parents are doing. Maybe they don’t explain it fully to you (“Get in the car, we’re going to go look at different cars!”) or maybe even specifically avoid it (“Won’t it be fun looking at these houses? No reason why, they’re just pretty.”). There’s also the problem of little kids having the memory of a brain-damaged goldfish. By the time we’ve all piled into the car, waited the long ride to the mall, found a parking spot, and taken the long trek across the parking lot to Sears, they probably only remember that they’re in the United States, let alone at the mall.

My first encounter with SkiFree happened on one of these very excursions, though I don’t remember it being that way at the time. I just remember being at the mall, our friend from down the street with us. We were going back to the car, and we just cut through Sears as it was the fastest way. Surely that was the only reason.

On display was a computer, stuck at the end of an aisle. And on the screen of that computer was a game.

We haven’t had one of these-style doodles in a while.

One-by-one we took turns playing the game, my sister helping hold me high enough to take control of the mouse and guide the little skiing man past the trees and fellow skiers. Those horrible, maliciously slow skiers.

Really, there were a few things amazing about SkiFree. First of all, it was run directly from the computer, right on the screen. There was no maneuvering through MS-DOS, no commands to type, no little black window that would pop up and then disappear before the screen was taken over completely and tinny music piped through the speakers. Instead it ran in a tidy little window, easy to move and close and resize. There may have been games like that before, but nothing I had ever seen. The second amazing thing was that it used the mouse. The mouse! Using it for games instead of just navigating through file folders!

How far technology had come.

Somewhere during this time, our parents disappeared. I can now theorize that they were looking at other computers, but us kids knew which computer we wanted: that HP Pavilion.

But no. Instead we were loaded into the car and trucked home, images of that tiny red and blue man still skiing, freely, through our minds. That car ate us up like a certain horrible abominable snowman, and our dreams along with us.

HERE IS A VISUAL. LET IT HAUNT YOUR NIGHTMARES.

Several weeks later I found myself in a warehouse with my mom. It was just us, it was late, and it was a schoolnight. I was tired and, even then, neurotic enough to be worried about being too tired for school the next day. It may not even have been a warehouse, maybe just a Costco or something. In my mental map, I remember it being somewhat close to the Costco, but not facing the correct direction. It was late, though, so excuse my not-quite-idetic memory from being somewhat muddled.

Like, seriously. At least 8 o’clock.

Anyway, I was sleepily led through this Costco-like warehouse, concrete floors and huge shopping carts and all. I was immediately awakened, however, when my mom placed me in front of a certain computer. On the screen I saw a familiar white field and a familiarly-colorful skier in the middle of it. I grabbed at the mouse.

For the next few hours (it must have been) I played the games on that computer, trading with my mom. We played SkiFree. We played Rattler Race. We played Rodent’s Revenge.

“Mom,” I said after a while. “Is it okay for us to be playing these in the store?”

“Hmm,” was all she said, and we went to talk to a salesperson. Before I knew it, they were loading up a big blue box with a thoughtful face of a man on it onto a cart, and my mom was pushing it out of the store!

“Mom,” I said, somewhat more anxiously. “Is it okay for us to be taking that out of the store?”

And that’s how I learned that sometimes you buy computers based off of the stupid games that come pre-installed.

Possibly the most important lesson of all.

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