A couple of months before I started PA School and while Susan and I were still living in our apartment in Delaware, Sara came to visit us for a couple of weeks during the fall. Because she had nothing better to do and I wanted the company, I convinced Sara to come with me to a Video Arcade auction that was about 2 hours away in New Jersey. I had been to a couple of Video Game auctions in the past, and just wanted to see what prices were on the east coast for these things as opposed to what I was used to in California. Without the space to keep a video game in our apartment I resigned myself to the idea that I since I couldn’t bring any of my arcade games from California, there really wasn’t any point of trying to buy one at the auction. So we took Susan’s Civic and headed off to the auction. Susan gave Sara strict instructions that she was supposed to watch me for signs that I might do something crazy and try to buy something, and to intervene with whatever force was necessary to keep me from doing so.
It was pretty much the same as usual, lots of middle aged white guys milling around row after row of barely functioning and a few non functioning video games. There were a few pinball games that usually went for outrageous prices, and something that I had never seen before in California, a whole bank of slot machines. But since I wouldn’t have been interested in slot machines even if I could buy one, I mostly just wandered around and tried to play a few of the functioning games. On one end of one of the rows were a few of the larger sit down style video games, a couple of dance pad games, and even a couple of the double person sit down games. One of which was a game I knew quite well named “Steel Talons”. I used to love the game because it was one of the few helicopter games that actually simulated flying a real helicopter. It had all the controls you would find in a real helicopter, the foot pedals, yoke, and even the handle to control the cyclical. If you wanted you could play the game in a simplified mode and it would take care of the complicated aspects of flying, or if you wanted the full experience, you could set it in advanced mode and all the controls would work, and the game physics would actually simulate flying a helicopter. Not only was the game complete and functioning, but because it was the two player version, you could actually play missions against each other rather than just against the tanks and artillery in the single player game. I thought it was pretty damned cool. I told with Sara that one time, long ago Susan had told me that she wanted to learn to fly a helicopter. Although we had joked about buying her lessons, the idea of Susan becoming a helicopter pilot never went any further than that. I told Sara that instead of buying Susan helicopter lessons, I should just buy her this video game, and I would be able to kill two birds with one stone. Susan could learn to fly a helicopter and I would have the biggest and coolest video game in the apartment. But the thing was absolutely huge. It probably wouldn’t fit in all except the largest bedroom, and even then it would take up more space than a king sized bed. Even though it broke apart into 3 pieces, it would be an absolute monster to try to move, and even then you would need a lot of help and a U-haul or trailer.
So it was probably a good thing that I had neither, and we had come in the Civic. I forced Sara to play the game with me a couple of times, and we joked about how cool it would be to have a full sized 2 person Dance-Dance-Revolution in the dorms, or the Motorcycle game that was next to it. I didn’t pay too much attention to the other games since I was still planning on building my Mame Arcade game. Because we had come so far and I wanted to see what the bids were like on some of the games I convinced Sara to stay through some of the bidding.
They started off with the slot machines. Keep in mind that I had almost zero interest in a slot machine, but auctions are addictive. Once the bidding starts and the excitement builds I tend to find myself being tempted by even the craziest things for no other reason than because someone else wants it. I was even tempted to bid on a slot machine. But what the hell would I do with a slot machine? Invite people to come over and play my slot machine? Really? But the auction is a powerful thing, and luckily Sara was there to keep reminding me that I didn’t really want one.
30 minutes later they moved on to the video games, and were going to start with the monster double units that Sara and I had spent most of our time looking at. They went through the first couple, but I was completely blown away by the prices that things were going for. Apparently their monster size is a major discouragement for people here, because games I had expected to go for $500 or $600 were going for $100. Dance-Dance-Revolution, which in CA would have gone for probably $800, went for $175. The motorcycle games went for $100, and one even went for $75. But surely people would be excited about Steel Talon, I mean come on. It’s a _helicopter_ simulator. The auctioneer started it at $200, which I was sure would be too low. Yet strangely no one bid. The auctioneer quickly dropped the price to $100, which usually gets people started before the price quickly passes the $200 mark on its way up. But still no one bid. The auctioneer again dropped to $75, then $50. But no one spoke up. I couldn’t believe it, such an awesome game. I stood there thinking, “Heck, I would pay $50 for it.” It’s possible I might have said it aloud too, but suddenly the auctioneer had a bidder. “$50, I see fifty, do I hear $75? No? $75? Fifty, I’ve got fifty, going once, going twice… Sold to buyer 172.” Hmmm, I thought to myself… 172. That sounds familiar. Where have I seen 172 before? Wait, that’s really close to my number isn’t it. Wait, where is my number? At this point I realized that I had been the bidder. I stood there dumbfounded as they moved on the next auction, my paddle with 172 on it still raised in the air over my head in my outstretched arm. The crowd around Sara and I cleared and we stood there in silence for a few seconds. Then Sara turned to me and said, “What were you thinking? Susan is going to KILL you!” It took me a few more seconds to come to my senses and realize she was right, Susan _was_ going to kill me.
My head was overflowing with questions. What am I going to do? What is Susan going to say? How am I going to get this video game home? Where will we put it? How am I going to get out of this? But it was all going to be ok, because Susan wanted to learn to fly a helicopter right? I wasn’t thinking rationally. I started imagining that with enough rope I could tie the video game to the roof of Susan’s Civic, never mind that it was almost the same size as the Civic, it could work…Now how would we fit it through the door? Sara could tell that instead of trying to figure out how to get rid of the game I was trying to figure out how to keep it. She asked me, “How are you going to get rid of this thing?” I got defensive and said, “This is all _your_ fault. You were supposed to be making sure I didn’t do something like this! Now help me think… Where can we get some rope?” But the reality was already starting to sink in.
My first instinct was to try to sell it. Maybe I could quickly register as a seller and get the game added to the end of the list. But by then the crowd might be too small for anyone to buy it at any price, much less bid enough to recover my $50 plus auction fees. Maybe if we just left it where it lay and snuck out…but they already had my address and credit card info, they would track me down in no time. Maybe if we drug it to the dumpster out back, no one would notice it, or better yet, maybe someone would take it? Or maybe if I had enough rope…
Luckily I saw that the guy that won the Motorcycle game was loading it onto a huge flatbed trailer. I asked the guy if he was interested in buying the helicopter game to go with his motorcycles since he still had room on the trailer. At this point I was desperate enough to be considering offering him $50 just to take the video game, but luckily he agreed to buy the game from me for $75 which made me even, and better yet, off Susan’s death list. Of course I first asked the guy if he had any rope, but with the video game gone, Sara and I made a hasty departure before the guy changed his mind.
On the way home Sara and I decided to play a joke on Susan. We came home to find Susan asleep on the couch from being post call. I stayed at the door and listened as Sara went into the living room and woke Susan up to tell her that she was back. When Susan asked where I was, Sara told her that I “was a few minutes behind her, parking the Uhaul.” I didn’t have to see her face to know that it must have been quite worried because her voice told the story. “How many games did he buy?” she asked waveringly. “Only 6” Sara said, “The other 4 are mine…” If Susan’s head could have exploded, it probably would have.
I thought that my entrance into the living room would reveal the joke, but Susan wouldn’t even look at me and instead buried her head in the couch cushions. It took 5 whole minutes of explaining and reassurances that we had not bought 10 video games before she would even pull her head out of the crack. It definitely would not have been the right time to tell her about what had actually happened, so instead we kept it a secret for a while and eventually told her later. All in all it was a pretty good experience. Sara learned not to zone out for a few seconds when we are together at an auction, and I learned that when I come to an auction, I need to either leave my wallet behind, or make sure that I have enough rope…