I picked up Alex at James Madison today and brought him home for Christmas vacation. I am glad to have him home and I like to ride with him, so I don’t mind the drive up and back. The road has become familiar and I have developed routines. For example, I always stop off at the Wilco Truck stop on the way home. I have around fifteen cents a gallon on gas, as compared to the prices in the Washington metro area. They have everything I need, a Hess gas station, a Subway Sandwich shop & Dunkin’s Donuts. But I don’t save any money despite the cheaper gas because I waste a couple dollars in quarters in the gambling machine you see up top.
You drop quarters in and sometimes they push more quarters into the tray and you “win.” The quarters perch enticingly on the edge, as you can see. In fact, there is no way I can win at this game and I know it. Oh yeah, I can win a few rounds. Sometimes I get the joy of hearing a pile of quarters fall into the tray, but those just permit me to play a little longer. It is just a diversion. I can afford it. I suppose it is more transparent than bigger deal gambling in casinos. At least with these machines it is easy to understand that you aren’t really going to win.
Speaking of things you cannot win, I used to play “Space Invaders” when I was in college. Sad to say, I got very good at the game, which indicates how much money I wasted. It costs a quarter to play, and that was back when a quarter was a lot more money for me. I could “beat the game,” which meant that it went through nine cycles and started back at the easier level. You never got your quarters back, but you could put your initials on the high score board. For a few glorious months, there was status in winning at video games. That was when college students (i.e. semi-adults like I was) were the champions. But we were soon replaced by teenagers and then children who had even more spare time than college students and more capacity for the mindless repetition it takes to master games. There isn’t much honor in beating a kid & even less in being beaten by one. In fact, finding an adult too good at any video game is not a good sign. I had a colleague who was master of Minesweeper & computer solitaire; not a good worker.
Of course, today games like Space Invaders are hopelessly primitive. My kids laugh. I explain that it used to be a bigger deal and that it is more challenging to play in a bar after you have had a couple of beers. My other favorite game was Missile Command. That game took more coordination than Space Invaders, so I played that one earlier in the evening.
On my way to pick up Alex today I got out a little ahead of the rush hour traffic, but I still was happy that I could use the HOV lanes on the way out. One of the advantages of the hybrid is that I can use the HOV lanes. Frankly, I don’t think it should be allowed. We have HOV lanes to cut congestion. Conserving fuel is only a secondary goal. My car does indeed save fuel, but I noticed a single guy in a Lexus SUV hybrid who also had the special right to use the HOV lanes. I suppose a Lexus SUV hybrid gets better mileage than an ordinary SUV, but I bet it gets poorer mileage numbers than an ordinary Honda Civic.