Author’s Note: To fully appreciate this story you must understand all of the important details and key players. People’s names and the locations in this story have been changed to protect the innocent. Also, I’m relying upon my memory of events from nearly 20 years ago, so God help us all. Enjoy.
The 1980’s were rife with urban legends. I have memories of being told some outlandish stories during my childhood. There was the kid who died after ingesting a mixture of pop rocks and Coke. There was the kid who died playing a video game that featured some sort of device which crushed him to death. And there was the urban legend where you could contract AIDS by sitting on an infected toilet seat.
Those urban legends were interesting, but they could not hold a candle to the disturbing cautionary tales my mother told me as a youngster. Looking back, they were some sort of way to serve as an explanation why I could not do something she viewed as potentially dangerous. All of her bizarre tales are permanently stored in my WTF?! memory banks to this very day. Don’t get me wrong, my mother is a wonderful person, and I love her very much, but her methods of keeping me out of harm’s way were not always handled in the best manner. I always have to remind myself that she had good intentions.
I recall one summer day when I was interested in riding my bike to a local park, which had a really cool stone cliff overlooking a playground, so I decided to inform my mother of my plans. She was not in the mood for my request and informed me, “You can not go down there by yourself. There are strange people in that park. You will get assaulted and they’ll cut off your head and throw it over the cliff.” To this day I have no idea how that scenario developed in my mother’s head. We lived in a city in Southwest Ohio that had 50,000 residents and I do not recall a time when an attacker jumped a kid in my hometown, decapitated them, and tossed their head over a cliff for fun. You would think a grizzly encounter like that would not only be local news but national news. Reporters and lookie-lou’s would come from miles and miles to see the site of the beheading. “Yup, they dun cut that boy’s head off for no good reason. I bet they wanted to toss it over the cliff. Yup.”
That was not the first time that my mother used decapitation to state her case. She was adamant about me being a safe driver and once told me that if I were ever in a serious wreck then I would die because I would be in a catastrophic accident and the only part of my body to not be burned beyond recognition would be my head. My mother was convinced that a Sheriff’s deputy would stop by our house at 3:00 AM holding a plastic bag with my head inside for her to identify. In her head it must have been customary for law enforcement to show up at someone’s home with a dead body and ask the family to identify the remains. “Excuse me, Mrs. Jones, could you identify these random body parts? We believe they belong to your husband.”
My mother once told me that I should not drink water from a swimming pool because she knew this girl who drank too much water from a pool and it seriously damaged her organs. According to my mother, this girl was going to die the next time she experienced a bowel movement. I kid you not.
There was an incident where I told my mother that I was interested in checking out a concert in Cincinnati, Ohio which was an hour drive from my house. She was very concerned and was worried that I’d make a wrong turn and somehow end up getting raped. The concert was in Cincinnati not Deliverance. It was nice knowing that my mother viewed me as a prison bitch and not as a guy who could defend himself in times of trouble.
She was also mad at the fact that I spent a great deal of time in arcades playing video games and was convinced I was going to die from radiation poisoning. In her mind, arcade games were fueled by uranium and developed at Chernobyl.
And then one day during the mid to late 80’s Worlds of Wonder released a laser tag game, and a friend of mine informed me that he was going to get that laser tag set for Christmas. He thought it would be cool if I had a laser tag set so we could have some serious laser tag battles. It sounded like fun so I decided to ask my parents for one as well. My father is a very laid back man who refuses to rock the proverbial boat, and when I would ask permission to do anything, he would always reply, “Go ask your mother.” I asked her about getting a laser tag set and she didn’t think it was a good idea because apparently she heard a story about a kid getting gunned down by cops while playing laser tag. That was it. There would be no laser tag for Christmas. I bet that dead laser tag kid’s mom found out the news when a Sheriff’s deputy showed up at the house with the kid’s head in a plastic bag.
My interest in laser tag quickly faded away, but an opportunity presented itself circa 1994 when my college roommate, Rodney Cheddar, asked me to play. Rodney was holding a giant stack of student newspapers and said, “Dude, LaserLand has 20% off coupons in the student newspaper, so I got as many as I could grab. Dude, we are totally going to play laser tag one weekend.” Not only was Rodney one of the nicest people I knew, but the man always had a plan to do something fun. The disappointment of not getting that laser tag set would be replaced by the excitement of joining my friends for a LaserLand adventure. Rodney decided to round up the usual suspects to play laser tag.
If you’ve read my previous T-D-Dubs articles then you are familiar with the likes of Sluggo, Sebastian Daniels, and Cornelius Van Brocklin. If not, then read my first article here and the second one here. You’ll appreciate the story a bit more if you knew the history of those silly people.
Sluggo, Sebastian, and Cornelius were very interested in playing laser tag. They were in the same computer sciences classes as Rodney, plus the guys invited some computer science students to join us to play laser tag. I had a feeling that this event would become part of the legendary battle between Sebastian and Cornelius. Sebastian was talking smack days before the event on how he’d destroy Cornelius at laser tag. I was disappointed that Sebastian and Cornelius decided not to have a fencing vs kung fu match, but knowing that LaserLand would be a battleground for these two egos to clash would be magnificent. Another positive from laser tag was the fact that Rodney and I knew that this outing would give us the opportunity to take our aggressions out on the ultimate slacker roommate, Sluggo.
We planned to go to LazerLand on a Saturday night. Rodney, Sluggo, Sebastian, Cornelius, and yours truly decided to ride together and meet the other computer science students at LaserLand. We were hanging out at the apartment beforehand eating pizza, playing video games, and joking around. Our local cable provider at the time ran a special that allowed certain subscribers to sample HBO and Cinemax for a thirty day free trial. We ended up watching TV and someone decided that watching the scrambled channel 23 was too exhausting and switched it to Cinemax, which at that time of day was what we referred to as ‘Skin-A-Max’. Cinemax has had a history of adult themed programming and the five of us became engrossed in a movie where a group of scantily clad young nurses were trapped in a lingerie factory. Their clothes somehow got dirty so they used the lingerie at the factory to stay clothed. I can not remember the title of the movie, but I do recall that the movie required the nurses to take individual showers, and we all agreed that sequence could not be missed. After the shower scene ended Rodney realized we were running late for laser tag, so we never found out how the nurses got out of the lingerie factory. Some mysteries are best left unsolved.
We made our way to LaserLand which was located in a giant strip mall outside of New Ravenwood, Ohio. Lazerland was also next to the only Hooters in the area. We met up with the fellow computer science comrades and used our coupons for a night full of laser tag fun.
We were asked to be divided into two teams. There was to be a red team and a green team. Sebastian and Cornelius were on opposing sides, and I was part of Sebastian’s team. Sluggo decided to team up with Cornelius while Rodney stayed loyal and joined Team Sebastian. Once we chose our teams, we were asked to put on a plastic chest plate with a sensor on it and to pick up a laser. We were directed into a room to be briefed on the LaserLand rules by a less than enthusiastic employee. The rules to laser tag were very simple. The teams were placed on opposite sides of a maze-like area, and when the buzzer sounded, they had thirty minutes to battle. You were to use your laser to hit a sensor on the chest plate of your opponent to score points for your team. When a person was hit then they could not use their laser for ten seconds. Also, both teams had a base which was an orb like device that was hanging from the ceiling. If you hit the opposing team’s orb then your team earned bonus points. The team with the most points would win the event.
Before we were to enter the arena, the LaserLand employee told us that if a fire alarm would go off then the players were to use the fire exits to vacate the building. The employee informed us that the players could still play in the parking lot. I pulled some of the team members together and said that if the fire alarm goes off then we are finishing the game at Hooters and not the parking lot. It was suggested that someone find a fire alarm in the arena and pull it to make that event happen. Sadly, there was not a lingerie factory near LaserLand.
The buzzer sounded and a laser tag battle ensued. Rodney and I went after Sluggo while Cornelius and Sebastian tried their best to zap the hell out of each other while acting like a couple of Navy SEALs. Our game was scheduled to last thirty minutes, but the LaserLand employee decided it was time for a smoke break and allowed us have fun for over an hour. I remember running around the arena with Rodney. He looked at me and said, “Dude, how long are we supposed to play?” We had a great deal of fun that night. Sebastian and Cornelius chased each other around the arena while Rodney and I experienced a moment where we ambushed Sluggo and zapped him relentlessly.
The MIA LaserLand employee returned and sounded the buzzer to end the game. He told us to go to the lobby to get our individual stat sheets. Those sheets would show us how many points we scored and our accuracy rate. I don’t recall what team won the game but I do recall the anger on Sebastian’s face when he realized Cornelius had a higher accuracy rate. We wanted to play again but our interest in the Skin-A-Max movie of nurses trapped in a lingerie factory caused us to show up late and not have enough time for a second game.
There were plans to play again soon, but months went by until we made our way back to LaserLand. Rodney planned a trip where we met three or four of his fellow computer science buddies. Cornelius was dating a girl named Rhonda and Rodney was dating a girl named Sherry. Rhonda and Sherry were invited along for the trip and they were very excited to play laser tag. Sebastian was ready to get revenge upon Cornelius for the last laser tag event, while I thought of new ways of ambushing Sluggo. When we arrived, we were told we had to be on one team because there was a “large group” that was waiting in the briefing room for an opponent. Sebastian was super pissed because we all had to be on the same team. It was like Professor X and Magneto working together to save the planet.
We made our way into the briefing room and discovered that we were going head to head against a group of twenty or twenty-five blond haired teenage girls. “Dude, it’s the Swedish Bikini Team”, exclaimed Sebastian. He was wrong, but it was strange to see this group of Aryan teen girls at LaserLand. The place was pretty much a geeky sausage fest.
Rodney carefully eyed our opponents. “We’re going to kill them, dude!”
Sherry overheard this statement and calmly replied, “Why?” Sherry’s response was the kind of question where Sherry wanted Rodney to admit that he had just made a super sexist remark.
We were put into the arena and the buzzer sounded. The blonde girls had panic in their eyes because they did not know what to do, so our entire team went after them as if we were the Mongols and they were some poor defenseless village. It wasn’t pretty that night. The girls were doing a better job of shooting at each other than shooting at us. There was no method to their laser tag strategy and the girls basically ran around the area in a panic. Sluggo discovered that they left their base unguarded so he stood under their base’s orb and shot at it for what seemed to be an eternity while racking up an obscene amount of points. Sebastian and Cornelius decided to see who could pick off more blond chicks with the highest accuracy. They were doing all sorts of silly military moves as if they were soldiers of fortune. Rodney and I stood on opposite sides of the arena to prevent any kind of movement towards our base. A majority of the girls were trying to flee Cornelius and Sebastian, so Rodney and I would pick them off as they ran our way. Rhonda and Sherry seemed to be the most ruthless of the bunch as they bulldozed their way from one side of the arena to the other taking out girl after girl after girl. There was no mercy from us that evening. It was life or death. It was laser tag.
The buzzer sounded and we all went back to the lobby to get our stat sheets. The first time we went to LaserLand the score was something like 500 to 460, which was a close game. However when we defeated the teen Swedish Bikini Team the score was something like 3200 to 20. Sebastian won his accuracy stats battle with Cornelius and you would have thought that Sebastian had won the lottery. We were all riding a victory high. We decided to play again as a team and destroy another group of players.
We paid for another game and were told to go into the room to meet our opponents. The blondes were not there, but we were to go head to head with a group of seven or eight yuppies. One of their team members was a pregnant lady in her third trimester. They all reeked of suburbia and high end clothing. They looked like they all just left some highfalutin restaurant where they shared a bottle of wine and laughed about their recent trip to Aspen. Little did they know of the shame we just slapped on the little blond girls. They were dead meat. There was nothing in a LL Bean or Lands’ End catalog to protect them from our laser tag awesomeness.
We entered the arena, the buzzer sounded, and we advanced on our opponents like the Golden Horde. As the battle progressed I sensed something was wrong. Our team was getting picked off left and right. We could not even get close to their base. Rodney and I had to chase a few yuppies down to stop them from attacking our base. We were on defense and the yuppies were moving with speed and finesse. Sebastian and Cornelius decided to make an epic charge using the skills they acquired from fencing and kung fu, but they could not get past mid-arena. Sluggo tried to make a bold charge as well but was zapped repeatedly. “What the f— is happening?!” screamed Sebastian as he made his way back to our base. Rhonda and Sherry were pinned down and became easy targets for the yuppies. That would have been the perfect moment for the theme music from Ken Burns’ The Civil War to play. Narrator David McCullogh would calmly tell of that fateful battle as black and white images of Sluggo sitting in a couch playing video games and Rodney eating an entire pizza scrolled across the screen. Then we’d cut to Shelby Foote who would remove a pipe from his mouth. Shelby would clear his throat, and in that wonderful Southern voice, he’d quote someone like Willam Faulker and speak so eloquently regarding our defeat.
Sluggo informed us that he found out why we were getting nowhere against the yuppies. The pregnant lady was on the floor in a sniper-like position taking us out while doing some sweet military style rolls on the floor. Sebastian found her and screamed out for a ruling from a LaserLand official because it violated The Geneva Conventions and the general rules of laser tag warfare. Rodney and I decided to rush her and take her out, but it was no use. It was too late. The buzzer sounded. Game over.
Slowly we made our way out of the arena to get our stat sheets. Few words were spoken. Sebastian did his best to find a high ranking official to plead our case against the pregnant sniper. We got spanked. We got schooled. We took a trip to the woodshed. That was the last time we played laser tag as a group.
It was during the summer of 2001 or 2002 when I introduced the lovely gal that would be my wife to Rodney and Sherry. Those two were still dating and the four of us met at a miniature golf and arcade joint to have some fun. After eighteen holes of mini-golf, Rodney suggested we play some video games. We had fun. Rodney and I discovered that they had a small laser tag room, so we decided to give it one more shot. Rodney and I were the only ones interested in playing so we went head-to-head. We had fun running around acting like fools. It was the first time I had played since the infamous yuppie game. It was wonderful. A buzzer sounded and we walked out of the laser tag room to review our scores. There was a group of teenage boys waiting to play. One of the boys was impressed Rodney and I played one-on-one, so he asked me my age. “Twenty eight”, I replied. “Wow”, he said. “I hope have that kind of energy when I’m that old.”
Now I am thirty nine and I have a wonderful family. My son and daughter are five and two respectively and they love playing mini golf. I’m waiting until they get older to take them out for a round of laser tag. It might be wise not to tell my mother because it would be too traumatic identifying three heads in plastic bags due to a freak accident at the laser tag facility next to the lingerie factory.
TonyDoug Wright (aka The T-D-Dubs) is the writer of the webcomics The Red Devil and Dr Death vs The Zombie. He is also a proud father of two amazing kids and is married to the coolest and most beautiful girl on the planet.