Saturday, July 26, 2008

Blasts from our pasts

Recently two things have re-entered my life, not really so much deliberately as purely out of convenience and circumstance. And in a world full of calculated nostalgia where irony has become an art, there's something refreshing about running into an old fashion because...well, just because. These two things are seemingly unsimilar, but are the thread that held the fabric of our 90's pre-internet, latchkey-kid lives together. I, of course, am speaking of Hot Pockets and Minesweeper.

Growing up in a town that (pre-Wal-Mart) didn't have any fast food joints within its borders, Hot Pockets were really the next best thing. Kids with two working parents generally fall into two categories: 1) The super-independent kids who learn how to cook at a young age, and 2) Kids who say, "Screw that, I'm gonna make a Hot Pocket". Me and my sister were the latter. My youngest brother was neither, since he was part of the entitled generation who grew up with Wal-Mart and the internet, and believed it was the God-given right of any small town teen to have constant access to fast food.

Before it was an overused Jim Gaffigan punchline, the Hot Pocket was a staple in my diet. It has since then come and gone many times, being replaced along the way with things like actual fast food, and actual cooking, only to come crawling back (into my mouth). I couldn't say exactly why I suddenly started buying them again, as of my latest trip to the grocery store, but I hope they're here to stay. If history tells me anything, though, they're probably not.

The funny thing about minesweeper is, I really didn't play it much as a kid. But what better symbol is there for the uselessness of the pre-internet computer in the eyes of a child? Speaking of outdated technology, and two-dimensional things, and entitled teens, I work at a market-research/phone-survey call center in Provo, which has driven me back to minesweeper as a lesser of two evils, the other being insanity.

For most of my days after the internet was banned in our call center (like the mirroring Provo City library computer lab across the street, 9 out of 10 computers featured an underpriveleged teen checking their myspace) I was a staunch solitaire player. It was nice and mindless, and I could zone out and let hours pass without thinking about it. The monotomy of my job, however, brought out my once dormant competitive spirit, and as minesweeper is much more based on speed than solitaire, I recently converted.

I soon discovered that not only was I competing against my only personal fastest minesweeper times, but also against the top scores on each individual computer in the whole call center. With just under 100 computers in the building, I knew my mission: to see how many computers could bear my name, in the "fastest times" section of each computer's minesweeper program.

I also found out that if you play enough minesweeper, the game's interface is literally tattooed into your brain, and when you lay in bed at night clearing your thoughts before going to sleep, you will see fictional minesweeper games stored into your subconscious. This is not unlike the time my cousins had an early big-screen TV in the 90's and played so much Tetris on it that even when you were watching TV you could faintly see Tetris in the background, as it was permanently tattooed on the screen.

I don't know how much more I can take at this job, but this much I know: that I must leave my legacy behind. And in a job where we rely on people answering landline phones to take surveys to further the cause of capitalism, are we not all sweeping for mines in a hit or miss world?