The Thin Red Line

Last week, a friend of mine called while I was on my lunch break. He wanted to invite me to help him celebrate his birthday. I listened to him describe a family dinner. "And then we're going to play laser tag," he said. I hadn't played since I was about 14, but I dressed all in black to celebrate my friend's birthday, 29 years young.

After the dinner, there were a hard core 10 or so of us, including his wife, brother and a few friends. We went to the same place that I used to go back when the words "youth group overnighter" were still part of my vocabulary. It was filled with the smell of a smoke machine flashing lights, and employees who sounded like drill seargeants. It struck me that the building looked (from the inside) a little like Hogwarts might.

I created my code name:

Sirens began to blare and we found ourselves herded up the stairs into a very squished antechamber flooded with ultra-violet light. I began to notice the large amounts of lint on my black sweater.

Our "marshall" explained the rules and then had us chant them with her in a sing-song voice, as loud as we could. I was 14 again.

I got to know the members of our group pretty fast. Some of them, I ran into during the game. I was darting around corners, feeling very like Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother (in my own way). I remembered being scared to go alone as a kid, now, however, though I enjoyed teaming up with someone else, I didn't mind roaming the halls with my gun in the air like James Bond, whipping around corners and smiling diabolically when I managed to take someone out from below or above. The music: a mix of techno, pseudo-popular, fueled my quick walking (I will not run, kneel or lie down!). Every now and then I would come across someone I knew. After apologizing for taking them out on instinct, we would join forces, getting each other's backs and becoming virtually unstoppable. My world became nothing but darkness and lines of red light. It was so much better than I remembered.

The birthday party special included two games. We emerged, spent, sweaty and generally ready to sit down and drink large quantities of water, only to find that we needed to get ready for the next game RIGHT AWAY. This time, I started out with a little more of a plan, I met up with one of the guys from our group, thinking that we would work as a team. He was short but quick, and I found myself quickly out of breath and ready to add laser tag as a cardio activity. It became quickly apparent that my friend was using me as a decoy, he sent me first into the fray and I absorbed the hits he missed. I only shot him in the back once.

When we were done, I could still see the thin, red lines in my head. We sat in my friends' living room debriefing, laughing and generally celebrating a birthday. It was one of the most fun evenings I've had in a long time. Here's to growing up and staying young.

Oh, and if you're looking for a new way to do cardio: consider laser tag!