I know I said a few weeks ago that vaping beats hell out of smoking, but there's a downside - battery life. I have three batteries and two chargers, and every now and then, I still find myself jonesing with no way to get a fix. So last night, I left the house at 11:45 and drove to the corner gas station to pick up a pack of Winstons. I don't care, really - if I smoke a pack every two weeks, I think I'm still doing pretty well.
This isn't a story about smoking. It's a story about sad little men. Because the guy working at the Shell station at midnight was a dumpy, balding old man in a dirty polo shirt who spends most of his night trying to get outside so he can smoke the incredibly cheap cigarettes that he sticks in the crack in the windowsill every time someone stops by to fill up the tank.
As I was standing there paying for my pack of poison, I had a depressing thought. Maybe I'm just maudlin because I'm approaching a birthday, with two kids in high school and a mortgage that gets paid late more often than it's on time on a house that needs lots of repairs I can't afford. But whatever the case, I found myself wondering if this poor bastard asking me if I want debit or credit ever saw this for himself. When he was a young man and the world was his oyster, did he ever think, 'you know, I just hope one day I can work at a gas station in the middle of the night, and have nobody on the planet who finds me attractive.' Did he have aspirations at all? What happens to a man to make him a pathetic overnight gas station attendant?
That probably should have made me glad to have escaped his fate (so far), but it didn't. Instead I was saddened that this man, a guy who may have once been an ass-kicking tough guy with a way with the ladies, was now a hopeless washout. Maybe he spent his whole life a pathetic loser, but that's actually more depressing, because instead of being in the twilight of his life, he's spent his entire life in the gloom of mediocrity. I don't know, but when my mood starts to darken, it develops its own gravitational pull, and sucks all the light out of the corners of my mind.
It seems that when you're thinking dark thoughts in the middle of the night, they tend to snowball. It took the smallest of leaps for me to begin to ask the same questions about myself. I'm about 30 pounds overweight, I have a bald spot on the back of my head like a monk's tonsure, and it's been a long time since a girl made a pass at me. I'm a middle-aged man working in a cubicle in an ugly office full of ugly people. My boss is a spineless weasel, and his boss is the kind of bitch that makes people plot her demise. I sit here in my ergonomic chair at my company-approved computer, smiling while I'm insulted and attempting to ignore it when people sell me down the river.
This isn't what I saw for myself. I was going to be take the world by the ballsack and squeeze until I was rich. I was going to have a trophy wife and a hot mistress, an Italian sports car and a huge house. My maid was going to do the laundry, and my chef was going to cook my meals. My secretary was going to be blowing me under the desk while my staff diverted all my incoming calls. In other words, I was going to do a hell of a lot better.
But life is a bastard, and I made mistakes. I don't regret most of them, because I never would have learned the stuff I know now, but it would have been sweet to be in that Ferrari right now, scoring blow for my tasty hooker girlfriend while she was at her topless photoshoot. On the other hand, in the light of day, with a few hours of sleep behind me, things look a lot better.
I have two great kids and a wife I adore. I have a decent home and enough extra income to buy lots of the stuff I want. I may not be rich, powerful or famous, but I'm also not living in a single-wide in Kentucky, all strung out on crystal meth and trying to dodge my child support payments (no offense if you are a hillbilly meth addict). I haven't done everything I thought I would do, but I've done a lot of things I didn't think I would. For every day that I think how badly I've done for myself, I have five where I wonder how I got so lucky. I'm not always a positive guy, no matter how I try, but in a world with a lot of crap, I've managed to avoid getting too much of it on me.
So what the hell does this have to do with games? Nothing, really, but I did have a point that gets awfully close to being about games. Because at midnight, when that poor schmuck manning the register at the all-night convenience store was going outside for his fifteenth smoke since his shift started, I was playing a game (you know, after I got back home). I feel nothing but bad for the overnight gas man, but after a lot of thought, I'm incredibly happy with my life, and I'm really glad I'm not him. I have the chance to play all the games I want, which is great, because I want to play a lot of games. If my hobby were rock-climbing, stamp-collecting or basket-weaving, my life would give me the opportunity to explore those things, and that's not something everyone can say.
So my life isn't perfect. So it's not as good as I hoped it would be. It's still pretty damned good, and even if it gets to me every now and then, I have a lot to be happy about, and a lot that makes me proud of my accomplishments.
And maybe one day I can buy a Ferrari and spend all my money on French whores. Then my life will be complete.