Lately I seem to be getting younger. Oh, don't get me wrong - I'm not complaining - it's just that
puberty was bad enough in the forward direction; the prospect of going through it backwards
leaves me a little unsettled.
Fortunately, if the rate at which I'm getting younger matches the rate I had previously been aging, I've got many years to prepare.
Why do I think I'm getting younger? Well, there are actually several indicators. I'm feeling a little more fit, and getting back some muscle tone in my upper body. I've actually got a great physique, but unfortunately it is currently encased in a lumpy sheath of unrefined lard. I guess you might say that I'm hiding my "six-pack" behind a quart of chocolate ice cream.
Now, part of the credit for my reverse metamorphosis certainly goes to my three beautiful children. Hmmm....Now that I think about it, I sort of wonder whether I might actually just be tapping into their voluminous reservoirs of youth, which is in turn causing them to age prematurely. (Heaven knows, my 14-year-old talks like she's 30-something.) Since parents usually get blamed for everything anyway, I might as well admit to my little subterfuge now. (Just don't tell Oprah.)
And, to be fair, I guess that part of the credit - at least that part that involves my muscle tone - has to go to my rediscovery of something I had always thought of as a long-vanished part of my misspent youth: foosball.
No, I didn't say football. And no, I don't mean soccer. By foosball I mean that table game you used to find in (only the nicest) bowling alleys and biker bars: the game with the plastic figures attached to steel rods that you twist violently to kick a little ball around. Sometimes it's called "table soccer," but it's always been "foosball" - or just "foos" - to me.
Now, as ridiculous as it seems, foosball was a big part of my youth. In my early teens it was a nightly ritual to beg a quarter from my folks just so I could walk a couple of miles to the bowling alley and play some foos.
There was always a group of "regulars" that would assemble every night to play, and some of them were quite good. Early on, I'd put my lone quarter on the table, pick a partner, and be soundly and humiliatingly defeated.
Well, I'm nothing if not obsessive, so foosball became a big part of my life. At one point in high school - just about the time it became clear that I had utterly sacrificed any passing grade in physics upon the altar of foos - it had been literally months since I had been defeated. In my tiny little east-side-of-town ocean, I was one big foosball fish.
Then I decided to travel to the other side of town - to the "other" bowling alley - determined to show them a thing or two about foosball. That's when I ran into a buzzsaw we'll call "Steve," who had the fastest and most accurate series of mesmerizing mystery shots I'd ever seen. I was never the same. The relative importance of foos promptly passed its zenith, and although I continued to play, I knew I would never be "the best."
Gradually, with the nascence of video games, foosball tables were replaced with Pong and Lunar Lander and Tempest. Video games took less room, made more money, and were effectively "zero maintenance" (at least, when compared to foosball tables, which constantly needed adjustment or lubrication). Foosball slowly evaporated from my life, leaving a sort of dried psychic scum in its place.
Well, when I started at IBM, I heard about a fellow programmer who had played foosball professionally in the late '70s, making literally hundreds of dollars per week. I sought out this kindred spirit, we shared some foos stories, and visions of foos again danced in my head.
Several months ago, the powers that be installed foosball tables in a couple of the newly remodeled break rooms. On a lark I started playing again, and started enjoying my little "breaks." Most of my old skills came rushing back, along with some new ones, and the sheer joy of utterly decimating the puppy dog-eyed 20-somethings - especially at what they presumed was "their game" - is what we in Minnesota politely call a "hoot." (It should be obvious by now, Dear Reader, that I'll take any respect I can get.)
So, anyone for some foos? I think I still have a quarter here somewhere…
Blair Wyman is a software engineer
working for IBM in Rochester,
Minnesota, home of the IBM iSeries.