A pizza cooked days ago, kept lukewarm under a heatlamp. Like worse than a Hot-n-Ready smell. A sweaty, public pool pizza.
This is because they have one of these pizzas (pepperoni) under a sallow heatlamp, sitting next to the cash-register. From the looks, a consumer-grade heatlamp. You might buy something similar from SkyMall, to accompany the Old Fashioned Looking Popcorn Machine you keep in your "game den." And the $2.50-a-slice pizza looks completely desaturated. Ninja Turtles would cry.
Speaking of Ninja Turtles, the whole place is actually sort of sewerlike. The walls are black and foamy with low ceilings. Accents of neon green and pink. It's humid. Teenage-boy-voice frequency. Which mostly means lots of awkward laughter that sounds like it's being choked out of them. They are excited. They occupy every last seat on the opposing benches. Team Green and Team Red. They throw taunts to each other, though friends. They are remarkably different in size, some still pushing 100 pounds, others like newborn giants. (Were teenage boys always so strange?)
We are the oldest people in the place by at least ten years. It is my first time playing laser tag.
The guy running the register is dressed in all black and I don't even think that's part of his work uniform. I bet he is 15. We ask him for two tickets for one 30-minute game of laser tag. He says we can't pay him for another 10 minutes. We don't understand but comply and wander back into the arcade area to kill time.
There is a birthday party going on. It's seems like a big downer, even for the 13-year old birthday boy. Maybe next year, kid.
We finally pay, get split up as a couple and join our respective teammates. Jared gets greeted by his team. I get a scan and a nod from mine. I am the only female in the whole place. They offer to let Jared select the game music since he is new (which will be blasted from the stereo system during play). He looks through the options and selects Star Wars. They quickly veto that ("no way" "stupid" "lame"), and instead pick something that sounds like it'd be under the "angry" filter on Killer Tracks.
This snobbery and shunning of Star Wars makes me upset. I conspire to rub up against them and make them nervous during play, or whisper sultry things into their ears to disarm them, then go for the kill.
I never get the chance. I am completely blindsided by the game.
The second I slip on the still-sweaty vest and grab the gun, I'm the last to get up the stairs. Upon entering the warehouse section, I'm memorized by the artwork, the black lights and the insane neon. Part dorm room, part glow-in-the-dark-gang-scene from Batman Forever, if you saw that.)
My first plan of action is to strategically survey the land. I want to know exactly how the passageways connect. I do this with zero interference. Then I hear some yelling and follow the noise, keeping my distance. I duck behind an old barrel labeled TOXIC. I get in position. I wait for someone to walk by.
I wait for someone to walk by.
No one is coming. I am a useless sniper.
I strategically take the perimeter route to where I hear voices. I see some red flashes (indicating gunfire). I crouch down and follow the lights. I run (against the rules, absurdly) towards the silhouette. I take aim at his right shoulder blade and fire. HIT!
The tiny teenager just laughs at me.
I turn around. The entire Red Team is perched on a landing above me. I walked right into an ambush. It's a turkey shoot.
When you get hit by the other team, you have three seconds of immunity. After I get hit, I take about 2 of those 3 and run (against the rules) out of harm's way.
Where are my Green comrades? Why is it so humid in here?
Did I mention I am wearing a silk blouse (surprise date).
The remaining 20 minutes are just as disappointing. No one is playing strategically. They are only using 5 percent of the warehouse. No sneak attack. No snipery. Just teenage boys being irritating and smelling up the place.
I still manage to make about 20 hits in the next ten minutes.
I run into Jared the one and only time. We stop and give each other a quick kiss.
I turn a corner in haste and hit a guy in the face with my gun (accident).
I overhear a guy say, "Don't go after that guy's girlfriend. He'll probably kick your ass."
I get pissed off overhearing this. I can play dirty. I can play reckless. And I do for the last 10 minutes of the game. I run the whole time, sweating up my very stylish outfit.
I hit another guy in the head with my gun (accident?)
And then, just as fast as it starts, it's over. 30 minutes down.
I make my way downstairs, find Jared waiting at the bottom, remove the even-sweatier vest.
We get our scores. Jared comes in 4th overall. I come in 14th. Out of 19.
I am completed outraged by this as any natural athlete would be. I vow then and there never to play again. Not so much because of the humidity, the lack of respect for one of the great movies of our time, the CHEATER behavior of the teenage boys. Not even because of the pizza smell.
But because I was terrible at laser tag. Call me a snob or a pessimist or a bad loser but it's not worth playing if you can't win.