Friday, July 13, 2007

COLUMN: Moral Breakdown

I am SO not destined for a life of crime.

I'm not saying that I'm some namby-pamby do-gooder guy or anything. I mean, I've had my moments of unbridled rebellion. I seem to have this recurring problem where my speedometer OBVIOUSLY goes faulty, causing me to get a few tickets over the years. I'm pretty sure I have some mp3's on my computer that appeared by magic. And heck, I've ripped the tags off mattresses with malice and forethought.

So yeah, I can be a rebel. I just don't do it often, because I also have the worst luck imaginable.

I don't know what it is, but it seems like every time I have the slightest moral breakdown in my life, I end up paying for it big-time. Once in college, my friends talked me into sneaking into a dance club when we were underage. Now, I didn't care about or partake in the illicit booze at all, no joke; I just wanted to hear a proper club DJ. But of course the ONE time I decide to break the law, THAT'S the night that the police show up to do random ID checks. Had a kindly waitress not spirited us out a back door, I probably would have cost my poor mother many a grey hair.

So I've learned over the years that it's best to, for the most part, walk the straight and narrow. But last week? I hit a curve on the road.

If you happened to read last week's column, you'll know that my life has been consumed by the video game Guitar Hero. I'm absolutely inept at it, yet it's still a good way to waste a few hours. Well, what I didn't mention in that column is that something tragic happened to me less than a week after I bought the game.

I had some friends over and we were rocking out. I was attempting a particularly nasty solo on some Rolling Stones song when the rock & roll spirit took over a little too hard. I pulled back on the cheezy little fake guitar to begin a manuver that can only be described as ROCKING THE HECK OUT, when -- *THUD*.

In the midst of my rock-gasm, I pulled a little too hard on the fake guitar and my X-Box took a 90-degree topple onto its side. Now, a mere amp topple wouldn't stop the Rolling Stones, right? Heck no, Keith Richards could probably topple his amp, play a mean guitar lick, AND shoot heroin at the same time -- ergo, I wasn't gonna stop, either. I kept right on rocking (albeit very badly) until the song ended. It was a four-star performance according to the game. Heck, maybe I could turn into a guitar hero after all.

What I didn't realize, though, is that while I was power rocking, my X-Box was carving a scratch the size of the Grand Canyon into my game disc. Turns out it's probably not a good thing to knock your X-Box over, mess up the alignment, and keep on playing. That Stones song would be the last lick that copy of Guitar Hero would ever make.

I took the disc out and looked at it. It was baaaaad. My hot guitar move had just destroyed a $55 game that I had owned for a whopping 4 days. That's a good chunk of change, especially for something as stupid as this game.

That's when the dark side took over. My friends and I hatched a complex, intricate plan to avoid having to re-purchase the game. The plan? walk in to the video game store and go, "I just opened this game and it's, like, broken or something."

For some reason, I honestly expected this to work. As though video game factories are prone to gouging their discs with a chisel before shipping or something. I walked in to the store and faced the manager. If I'm a bit of a geek, this guy was the Geekmaster. I gulped, went up to him, and lied my butt off. "I took it out of the case and it just wouldn't play."

The Geekmaster, without hesitation, turned the disc over, saw the abyss that was once a functioning video game, and said, "Your system did this."

"Nooooooooooo," I somehow try to respond. "I only had the game in for, like, a second. Couldn't be. Factory defect."

"Your system did this," he said again in the same dry voice. I was had. I couldn't keep up the charade. All I wanted to do was grab the disc and run out of the store in shame.

But no, the Geekmaster then told me how the internal whatzit in my X-Box had probably slid off its track, and how I could easily damage all of my discs. He gave me the phone number to call for X-Box support. He told me how to best ship the unit to repair for the fastest results. And then he did the unthinkable.

"I shouldn't do this, but I feel bad you for, man. I'll replace this disc with a used one I just got in."

Not only did the guy catch me bearing false witness, he still replaced the disc -- because he felt bad for me. Bad that I'd been an idiot and destroyed a game I'd owned for 4 days? Bad because I came in with a feeble attempt at lying to cover my own stupidity? Or bad because I'm a 36-year-old who plays Guitar Hero?

It didn't matter. I still felt 2 inches tall. All I know is that the Geekmaster earned my future business that day. Heck, I even felt so worthless that I bought ANOTHER game that day I didn't even really want - I just felt like I owed the guy something.

So lying is bad, kids. You might get away with it, but it does NOT fill one with warm fuzzies. Maybe I AM a namby-pamby do-gooder after all. Either way, lesson learned -- though perhaps they should put a warning on those fake guitars: "Caution - Do Not Over-Rock."

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