Most early (and some late) magical moments in life are coin operated, and so against all odds, Saturday afternoons at Moon’s was the highlight of my week. Loading the car with laundry baskets and spending the day in a hot laundromat is hardly the kind of activity children would look forward to, but between the loading of laundry and monitoring of dryer cycles, was our oasis in the dessert. Tucked away in a dark corner, lurked “Golden Axe”.
We lived and did laundry in Harmon Industrial Park. An area of the island that wasn’t the most wholesome. The kind of place where, good intentions often got you hurt. Like my elderly neighbor who offered a man a glass of water and ended up getting hit over the head and robbed. It goes without saying, we were on the fringe part of the population that was struggling for normalcy. Of all of the things not having enough has taught me, the most enjoyable was probably how to be good enough at arcade games to make the most out of your 25 cents. We had a max of $2.00 between my sister and I, so I learned early on that my best defense against boredom was taking my man, Gilius Thunderhead, as far as he could go.
I learned a lot from these medieval quests–not only from the successes, but also from the failures. When I used up my coins, I’d observe the cross section of the population congregated at the laundromat. Lecherous men bravely waging war against mountains of laundry while hung over, Students making use of the weekend to catch up on chores, hardworking people nipping out between shifts to do laundry so they could have a clean uniform for their next shift, and people like my mother–housewives who worked full-time jobs but didn’t have enough for a sitter taking their kids to the laundromat and bribing them with games. I was an observer in a shared slice of everyone’s otherwise wildly varied pursuits, and for this I’m thankful. Because I learned that tough guys don’t look so tough when they see you cursing at a video game and give you another quarter, I learned that quiet ladies won’t hesitate to put you in your place when you act a fool in a public establishment, I even learned that you can pry a dryer lock open with a flat-head screwdriver and flick a switch for unlimited free drying! The mofo found a dryer cheatcode!
I learned that although in many ways, life differs from video games, in so many small ways that matter, it is profoundly similar. At some point we’ll run out of quarters, hopefully we’ll be able to say we made our turn count.