Snow is on the ground in this little Connecticut hamlet. It’s just a light dusting, already melting in spots. This will be my first winter in the Northeast, and they’re still wearing shorts in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I spent last winter.
There was one significant snowfall in Tulsa during the winter of 2002. It blew into town suddenly and trapped my nephew Tyler and me in my house. We were all alone with a Playstation 2, the highly addictive Palmer X snowboarding game, a mountain of sugary, hi-carb snacks and no phone service.
Life doesn’t get much better than that. We were set. It was on.
The Playstation 2 was slick, black and new, our addiction to its hypnotic blue light and sleek black cover reaching critical levels. The pressure to interact with the rest of the family was off. We were alone, we didn’t have to eat real food, showering was optional and sleeping, well, that was for wimps.
We played Palmer X until we saw hip, edgy snowboarders swooshing on the backs of our eyelids. So we stopped closing our eyes. Nightly sleep sessions were replaced with power naps and only when hallucinations threatened our ability to land a decent 360 or Rodeo or Japanese Air on the half-pipe.
Me: You tired?
Ty: (Fingers still flying over the game pad) No way. Not me. You?
Me: No. Not unless you are. I’m not going to bed. I’m gonna kick your butt again.
Ty: Bring it on!
He was nine; I was 40 going on seven. But I had those wild college years to draw upon when sleep deprivation threatened. It was an even match.
Tyler settled into his gaming gear: shorts, a T-shirt and a Nike cap. I chose my workout clothes: flannel pajamas and a pair of loud but warm socks. With black circles under our eyes, a grey fog over our stinky heads (the PS2 addiction steals all consideration for conventional hygiene), and a side bet on who would spill the most soda – counting spills was more fun than cleaning them up – we gamed our gamey way through some 96 hours of winter storm nirvana.
On Day 3, when our vision was blurred, our necks stiff and we had both toggled up worker’s comp-worthy cases of carpal tunnel, we agreed that an extended power nap was in order. We had been sleeping in shifts, one person giving in to fatigue while the other skied solo, learning new tricks to show off.
Neither of us wanting to be the sucker who slept first, we agreed to set the alarm and get a full four hours of sleep. We woke up some seven hours later in a panic, looking at each other incredulously, like two cartoon characters late for the office.
This can’t be happening!
The alarm had failed us, we agreed, shaking our heads and mumbling. Only the PS2 was reliable, our trustworthy electronic friend. We splashed water on our faces, did a quick courtesy tooth brushing, resumed talking smack and headed back to the couch.
But soon the snow melted, the cell phone started ringing and going out in public seemed unavoidable. I needed to go back to work.
There were PS2 games to buy and we’d discovered Jones soda and a new flavor of Doritos. We needed supplies for the weekend. I had to get back to work. We would need another fix soon.
It takes a little pocket change to chase that PS2 dragon.