Monday, March 4, 2013

Pay That Man His Money

There’s a line from Rounders that I love to quote, “I feel like Buckner walking back into Shea.” Mike drops this gem as he returns to the scene of his greatest defeat, and he’s playing for his life as he’s $25k in debt and owes most of it to the wrong kind of people. Including his nemesis, who took Mike’s bankroll a few months back and killed his dream of entering the World Series of Poker.

It’s a killer line, and life (luckily) doesn’t present too many opportunities for me to properly use it. Headed to the dentist, or the DMV, are the most likely scenarios for me. And then yesterday, the Kyd and I were invited to join some friends for a trip to the local mall, Oak Park Mall, where I worked at Lenscrafters for seven years. Since leaving in 2005, I’ve been back twice. Once, just a few weeks later, I went to say hi to some friends that still worked there, and then a year later to run an errand. So I haven’t been back in over five years.

“Just walking in here makes me queasy. The Brick walls. The ----ing mopes at the tables. The musty smell. I feel like Buckner walking back into Shea/”

All true. It looks almost the exact same, even some familiar faces at the pizza joint. It’s not all bad memories. In those seven years, I made some great friends. But we always joked that leaving the mall felt a lot like being paroled. So while I love the Rounders’ line, it’s not completely accurate. I felt more like Lohan walking into a parole hearing.

The trip down memory lane ended pretty fast. It was quickly replaced by a feeling that’s becoming more common these days. I felt old. It’s not uncommon for me to be around the Kyd and her friends at either a volleyball game or a school event, and I never really feel old there. In fact, it usually feels like it wasn’t that long ago that I was her age. It’s a totally different vibe at the mall. It looks like a scene out of “The Walking Dead” with texting teens coming from every direction. The groans even made them sound like zombies, and they shuffle their feet in the same manor. That’s when it hit me. I’m old. Even though I remember being that age, and spending way too much time at the mall, I felt more like the guy shouting “get off my lawn!” than I felt like one of them.

The feeling was compounded by the fact that it wasn’t so long ago that I spend the majority of my week among them. So much had remained the same, but the changes are pretty noticeable. Mainly, and sadly, it’s fashion. Girls always look older.  A fact that used to make me a little nervous when I was younger, but now that there’s a girl that I’m responsible for, it’s both terrifying and I suddenly want to go all Michonne on every teenage boy. When I was there, everyone wore jeans. Now the girls are wearing the same tights and boots that their mothers wear, while the doofi (I think that’s the plural for doofus) have jeans hanging off their backside (I may have been somewhat guilty of that many moons ago, get it?), ridiculous haircuts with as much hairspray as my sister used in the 80’s complete with a smug look that really needs to be slapped off of them. I guess that urge isn’t all that new either, as I was an uncle before I could drive, and as a result I’ve always had an overly portative streak in me. But there’s something different about the latest iteration of teens. And they make me feel old, which brings up the first line from Rounders:

“Listen, here’s the thing. If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker.”

I looked, and I didn’t see the old guy in the mall. So I was the old guy. Blech. 

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