Shooting little kids in the chest

On Friday night I played laser tag against two students and a band of marauding birthday party kids. Eighteen players in all and I was the only adult in the maze. I finished second, despite the frequent and illegal teaming by children who wanted to do nothing else but destroy me.

I left the game feeling pretty good about myself.

Actually, I felt great about myself. I play laser tag a couple times a year and rarely finish below second place, often winning the game. And in most circumstances, I am playing against kids who play more often than me and often team up to defeat me.

Then I tried to explain my euphoria to an adult, and she looked at me with a less-than-impressed stare. She was listening to a grown man describe the way in which he defeated children in a game involving lasers, fog machines and a maze.

I was suddenly wrenched back down to Earth. Back in the land of mortgage payments and child-rearing, I felt foolish for my unmitigated enthusiasm and joy.

But then my eyes returned to my scorecard, and the note on the bottom that indicated that I had placed second and had received 50 bonus points for my #2 ranking in accuracy. I noted the number of shoulder hits I had taken, primarily from a pod of five ten-year olds who had taken the high ground on the upper corner of the maze, and considered alternatives to taking on a fortified position in the future. I analyzed my own shot selection, counting the excessive number of times I scored a hit on the front of an opponent’s pack, a statistic in keeping with my flush-and-retreat strategy.

I had played a great game, damn it, and those unimpressed, glazed-over adult eyes were simply the eyes of inexperience and ignorance. Until you running through that maze, armed with a laser, battling platoons of four-foot tall warriors who will cover sensors and ambush you whenever possible, you cannot know the skill and strategy that goes into finishing second. Yes, it’s a game, and yes, it’s primarily a children’s game, but for those adults brave enough to enter that maze, it is twenty minutes of war, and to the victor goes the spoils.

Which in this case is a pink scorecard and an offer to play in the Halloween overnighter next week.

Still, do not belittle my accomplishment until you have carried a laser yourself. Events like the birth of my daughter and the publishing of a book contained moments of pure, unadulterated joy, and those moments far exceeded my laser tag joy of finishing second.

But finishing second is on that list of joyous moments, and it’s not too far down the list.

How often can you say that you beat seventeen kids at their own game?