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March 4, 2012 / jwaxo

Paperboy 2 (Orthodontics)

– by Jeff Wax

Half of the fun would be hitting that car jack instead of the mailbox.

When she was in elementary school, my sister went to the dentist and was told that she would need braces. The idea of braces was mostly foreign to myself and my brother: kids on TV would walk around with gigantic metal contraptions around their heads, all in the name of getting their teeth somewhat more perfect. Soon we were set straight–instead of huge enclosures around her head, my sister instead developed a slight lisp, had her teeth completely blocked off with metal and elastic, and had to have a monthly visit to a mythical place known as “the orthodontist’s.”

In other words, it was probably horrible for her. To us, it meant she had the extra hassle of needing to brush and not being able to eat certain foods. But it also meant that she got a lot of extra attention, and we got a lot of extra boredom as we waited in the famous waiting room for her to finish with, well, whatever the orthodontist did.

Normally waiting rooms are the absolute worst. Maybe there was a Highlights or two, buried beneath the mountains of grown-up magazines. If you were extra-lucky, there would be one of those cool tangles of wires that had beads all over them, which the toddlers never seemed to appreciate as much as they should have.

Look, they were really fun, for some reason.

But the orthodontist either didn’t have those or we didn’t notice, because he did have something way, way, way cooler than a few issues of Highlights and a toy made for toddlers.

He had a Super Nintendo.

There weren’t many games to choose from, and those that were there needed you to ask the nice lady behind the desk in order to swap them out. What was there flitted beyond our imagination, beyond the possibility of what we could have thought was cool.

Because they had Paperboy 2.

There aren’t many games quite like the Paperboy games. Riding on your bike, with limited time to deliver your papers, and so many bad (or cool, take your pick) places to throw them, and so many people that are just trying their best to trip you up or roll a tire into you or drop you down a hole. And, if you made it through the entire week, you could go off of jumps in some kind of deranged paperboy biking competition. It was everything that the coolest kids did, in our imaginations: biking, not giving a hoot about people yelling at you, and being financially secure? In the mythos of the suburban elementary-schooler, paperboys were the ultimate in cool.

This movie was awesome and you should feel bad for not liking it.The poverty of the Newsies notwithstanding; they were still awesome.

The pure draw of the Super Nintendo, combined with the extra wad of cash that somehow she earned with the removal of her braces, made my brother and I insanely jealous of our sister’s need for those teeth-straightening implements. So much so that, when the final orthodontist appointment happened, we were quite upset that we would never see that waiting room again.

Until my brother needed to get a retainer and headgear, and we returned. Several more times, and a few of them without any other siblings, giving me more time to the game on my own. Mysteriously, my brother’s opinion of the orthodontist soon dropped, and he no longer thought that needing additional dental help was as cool as it had seemed.

None of this made sense to me. So what, you put up with a few extra things in your mouth, maybe sleep with something in your mouth, and get to play cool video games. There was literally no downside.

With time, our visits to the orthodontist soon disappeared, and my siblings grew out of their needs in that area. I, too, eventually realized that I was probably putting too much weight on the video games and less on the annoyances of having something metal permanently attached to your teeth.

Cue my dentist, on my senior year, announcing that I would, in fact, need braces.


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