As a kid, I can tell you there was no greater thrill than finding out one of your friends was having their birthday party at Laser Quest – ultimate laser tagging at its best. After wolfing down an entire Dominos pepperoni pizza, a 2 liter of grape soda and a pound of cake, you’d check that your shoe laces were double-knotted and make your way out to the “briefing room.” Every kid would come up with a ridiculous alias name (pretty sure I was always Mizz Kitty) and then you’d shake hands with your former-friends-now-turned-enemies, knowing that in thirty seconds it was every man for himself and you’d blast them with your laser gun.
I haven’t played laser tag since I was in 6th grade. The older you get, the creepier it becomes – the notion of an adult in a giant, dark obstacle course, ruthlessly laserbeaming a bunch of eight-year-olds that are a full two feet shorter than you. But, I’ve never been one to care about being awkward, which is why I included playing the ultimate game of laser tag on my 213 in 2013 list. Luckily, I had Mike and our two visiting friends, Katie and Kevin, to join me to make it less (more?) creepy.
I found this place called Shadowland, which was only a short 25 minute drive away. From the outside it looked sketchy and the inside didn’t prove to be any better, but what laser tag place isn’t? As soon as we walked in the doors there were throngs of screaming children running in every direction and uninterested parents sitting on benches glued to their iPhones. We spotted a pretty large group of grown men (who looked pretty douchey), but were grateful to see other people taller than 4”.
After paying for our games, we filled out a “we won’t sue you if we trip, fall and get injured” paper and each of us carefully picked our aliases. Mike was Frosty, Kevin was Opaque, Katie was KT Sev and I was (maturely), Meow Poop.
We made our way into the briefing room where I could barely pay an ounce of attention to the woman going over the rules and instructions because I was too eager to get suited up and unleash years of pent up childhood nostalgia. Row by row we were called into the gear room where we found our laser packs and got ourselves strapped in. As the 30 second countdown began booming from the speakers, I felt like I was in The Hunger Games and channeled my inner-Katniss knowing that if I had any chance of survival/winning, I’d have to find safety and stay away from the merciless children around me looking to bring us adults to our knees.
The doors slid open, our packs were initiated and before I knew it I had already used an entire dictionary of profanity (first rule broken) within the first 60 seconds as I was slaughtered by laser beams from my left and my right. Some kids named Babyface Killa and Fartz were out for blood and I was ranking an embarrassing 25th out of 30 only two minutes into the game (I later went on to finish 17th but my team, the Blue Team was a two-time champ.)
I tried to remember some of my old techniques and began running up a ramp (second rule broken) before I tripped over my own feet, twisted my ankle and nearly slammed into a wall. Clearly I was no longer as limber and agile as I was once was, nor was I as fast or sly. But that’s alright, Katie and I made quite a pair smack talking kids half our height and age.
Two games later, ounces of sweat lost and several new bruises gained, I realized it was the most carefree fun I’ve had in really long time. While I can never go back to being a kid ever again, I know now that there’s nothing wrong with going back to visit every once in a while.