GateHouse — “The best things to kill are the monkeys. Not because they’re evil. Because they give you 5,000 points,” my son says, from the backseat, not looking up for one minute from his game of Angry Birds.
First of all, let me clarify that neither my son nor his parents advocate the killing of actual real-world monkeys, no matter how many points it gets you.
But the real world has little bearing on Angry Birds — a game that involves flinging small animals at boulders and glass in an effort to make pigs explode, which I have determined through rigorous scientific research is mostly not possible — except that it’s the one you leave when you press START. That goes double if you are 7, are in the backseat on a two-hour car ride home and you are playing while blurting out increasingly awesome non sequiturs that make no real-world sense whatsoever.
“You monkeys are MEAN!” the boy shouts, with what I can sense is nonsensical but pretty genuine monkey-centric frustration.
For two hours the little mercenary flung virtual birds at virtual hogs on the trip home, and for two hours he rambled nonstop about his game, a span of time in which my increasingly piteous attempts to listen to “music” were demolished by the sound of reckless avian devastation punctuated by the occasional gleeful shouts of “I GOT THREE STARS!” and the even more occasional disgusted grunt — which was in flagrant defiance of our list of Things That We Don’t Pitch Temper Tantrums About (Nos. 1-15,000: video games).
“You smugglers built the stones so we birds can’t bust open the other birds’ cages!” the boy accuses a few minutes later, having apparently determined that the word “smugglers” is a TOTAL burn. (When asked to repeat this insult so his pinhead Dad could write it down, he pouted, “UGH,” repeated the sentence and then added, “What else would I have said?” as though we Vrabels have a lengthy history of fighting smugglers and their bird-stones.)
Here’s how this started: Our little day trip included a visit to the Apple Store, where my son zipped right up to an iPod Touch loaded with “Angry Birds Rio” and proceeded to ignore all stimuli from what us humans call “the real world” for 45 minutes. Normally I would cringe at such brain-wiping video-gamery, but his tumbling headfirst into the iPod allowed me 45 minutes to zombie-walk around the store touching things I will only be able to afford if it is discovered that one of our bathrooms rests on a massive oil reservoir and I can keep my crafty neighbors from drinking my milkshake.
Related, sort of
So, at the end of a day hot enough to make fellow tourists burst into flame and humid enough so you felt like someone taped a sponge to your face, I thought a bit of distraction couldn’t hurt and might make him forget that he was mad at us about all the walking. Remind me of this when he’s playing “Halo 18” for 72-hour stretches in a few years.
Here’s the thing: Whenever he shouts out a gleeful “Cleared it!” or “Three stars!” or “Yessssss!’ I find myself INEXPLICABLY SWELLING WITH FATHERLY PRIDE, as though he’s just nailed a 54-yard field goal to win state, and not merely figured out a way to murder a pink blob of future bacon on my phone.
“The monkeys may look cute,” he continues in the backseat somewhere in the depths of rural two-lane South Carolina, “But their actions are mean. See, you can’t judge them on what they look like.”
Wait wait slow down, I think in the front seat — now you’re back there LEARNING THINGS? DAMMIT. I make a lot of obnoxious self-congratulatory noise about the absence of video games in my son’s life. Our house is free of Wii and Xbox and graced only by a NES from 1988 that sits under the giant stupid flatscreen TV, waiting for someone I can humiliate at Dr. Mario to come over, and now he’s learning CRUCIAL LIFE LESSONS? Now what?