Friday, July 10, 2009

The Sixteenth One: Facebook Addiction Chronicles, Entry Two

Deep breath.

Okay, I have just recovered from a moment of temporary insanity involving a fair amount of shame on my part. It started when I could not connect to the Facebook game app for "Restaurant City". (Details of the game not important at this point, just keep reading.)

At first, it was just minimally annoying. These things happen. It's Friday night, and there are tons of Eleanor Rigby's and system response is slow, I get it. But it kept happening. I could not get in. Retrying, Refreshing, Signing Out and Back In. Nada. Frustration built.

After about the thirtieth time of clicking on the hateful smiling-cook retry icon and getting nothing, I lost it. I actually screamed at the monitor "I HAVE GOT TO GET IN HERE TO FEED MY STAFF OR THEY WILL DIE AND PEOPLE WILL LEAVE MY RESTAURANT!"

Good gawd.

How deep is my addiction? Well, let me just run through a typical day's journey in the land of Facebook game apps. Keep in mind that I don't start this bit of frolic until AFTER I have checked my inbox, reviewed all notifications to see who did what to me where, and scrolled through endless pages of postings, 97.8% of which I don't care about. (Not being mean, just sayin. I'm very happy that you took a quiz that determined you are Lt. Uhura from Star Trek, but it's not going to change my life.)

So, the game app routine. If you're not familiar with these games, two things you should know: they are structured so that you DO become addicted and return every day so their advertisers can make money, and it takes you CENTURIES to level-up and get the goodies that you want.

We start with "Mob Wars". Not "Mafia Wars". Mob Wars. People get these confused. I play both, and they are similar, but there are distinctions. Mafia Wars is actually a bit more fun and interesting. Actually, a LOT more fun and interesting.

So why stick with Mob Wars? Because it was my first game app child, suggested to me by a pushy mate who lives in England. She was ALL about this game at the time, and since I'm slightly scared of her, I accepted the invitation to join her gang for fear of truly losing my life. She don't play.

And the first child always holds a special place in your heart. Yes, there may be other siblings coming down the production line of life, maybe even more talented or entertaining, but that first one gets a unique kind of love. Besides, in that game, I'm making like 80 gazillion dollars an hour and own most of the known world. I can't stop now.

Then we have Yoville, my second child. In this one, everything's really cute, and you run around playing games and working in a factory and earning coins so you can decorate your dwelling with stupid crap. I actually abandoned this one for a while. (Go ahead, call Child Protective Services. I admit it freely. I'm not scared of you.)

But I came back to this one after several friends (hereafter known as "enablers") began playing, and they tempted me with gifts and salacious acts of "dancing with my avatar". So I was sucked back in. And I discovered that if I play long and hard enough, I can purchase "The Gothic House".

I am now obsessed with owning this house. Not kidding. I WANT THE GOTHIC HOUSE! Trouble is, you have to have 20 members in your "crew", and I only have 14, despite sending out thousands of "join" requests to my Facebook friends, many of whom are probably on the verge of clicking that "Un-Friend" button. AND, you have to have 25,000 coins, in a game where you only make about 3 coins a day. But I will triumph in the end. (I want the Gothic House!)

Then we jump over to Mafia Wars, just like Mob Wars but better. I don't own the world here yet, but I will. Because you know I'll keep coming back until I do. The lawn doesn't get mowed like it should, and I haven't taken the trash out in 37 days (111 Yoville coins!), but you have to have goals, right?

Then we have Farm Town. Where you plow, plant and harvest. Repeatedly. Until your mouse no longer clicks and your index finger is in a splint. I'm focused on making money, so I have ignored the hundreds of animals that have been gifted to me. These animals are running all over hell on my pathetic and neglected farm, mooing and bleating and neighing. I just turn the sound down and keep plowing.

Then there's Farmville. Just like Farm Town, except the animals don't move. They stay right where you plunk them. Sweet. Otherwise, same thing: plow, plant, harvest, carpal tunnel.

Followed by.... Barn Buddy. No, despite the alluring title, this is not about young rural teenagers coming of age. This game's actually.... just like Farm Town and Farmville, only on a smaller scale. Okay, now I'm scaring myself. What is my obssession with farms? Why must I plow so much? Clearly, one or two of these has got to go. Maybe tomorrow.

Next stop on the Addiction Express is "Pirates". Luckily, this one is kind of confusing, or poorly designed, or something. I get the "plunder" jobs, wherein you do pirate-like activities to earn gold. I'm at a loss with the whole "island" thing where you apparently hire friends to work in a coal mine or some such. Hopefully, the frustration will continue and I can set this one adrift on the high seas. One down, 17 to go.

"Vampire Wars". Just like Mob and Mafia, but with this one you earn "blood" instead of "coins". The rewards seem to be more immediate, so there's that. And of course, this game is all about the Gothic, which reminds me of the house in Yoville that I yearn for constantly, and the addiction cycle continues.

I really need help.

Finally, we have "Restaurant City", which started this whole mess of a blog. In this one, you have to hire cooks and waiters to service the patrons of your restaurant, and buy ingredients to make better meals to make more money so you can-

OMG! The app is back up!


Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Fifteenth One: Sweet and Lowe's

Working on my blog, minding my OWN business, on a Sunday afternoon. The phone rings.

It's Terry.

He's calling from Odessa, where he and the brother and sister that are still on speaking terms are taking care of family business. There is no telling what this might be about, as those three think dangerously alike and any negative aftermath of their actions is tripled.

I answer.

He responds. "Hi Sweetie! I love you!" Immediately, with those 5 words, I'm on red alert. I know him. There is going to be at attempt to involve me in something unsavory.

I take a deep breath. "So, what are you guys up to?"

"Well, we're here at Lowe's and Nina and I were looking around at stuff and we were out in the lawn and garden section and Nina found these patio chairs that she really likes but there's only one and we talked to the guy and he says they won't be ordering any more 'cause it's the end of the season for them."

"Uh huh."

"Well, so can you run down to our Lowe's and see it they have any of these chairs? I think they're just like the ones we have on our patio."

We have a mix of about 40 different chair styles on our patio, because I'm always going to Lowe's with the sole intention of replacing one dead plant and instead coming back with furniture and a crate of citronella candles. We've got to narrow this down. "Okay. Which exact chairs are we talking about?"

"I think it's the ones you just got."

"I bought two different sets the last time. Are you talking about the fake wicker ones, or..."

"These have arms."

Really? Imagine that. I contemplate having a martini, even though the breakfast dishes are still warm. "Okay. Are the arms curved? Are they metal? Do they have-"

"Oh, wait! Here's SKU number."

Thank gawd. "Okay, go."

"Okay. Um... 1-4-6-9-1-4. Did you get that? 1-4-6-9-1-4. Wait. No. Yeah, that's right, 1-4-6-9-1-4. 1-4-6-9-1-4. 1-4 -6"

"I've GOT it." Deep breath. Then, first, because I have to do the little guilt thing that keeps a relationship strong: "I'm still in my jammie pants. I've got to shower and all that." No response, so we move on to the supportive partner part: "But I'll hurry, and I'll call you when I get there."

"Okay, great. We'll still be here." Of course they will. It's Odessa. West Texas. Going to Lowe's is one of the few available highlights. You put on lip gloss and you take a picnic basket. That's just how it is.

So I hop in the shower, slap on something comfortable to wear and head out.

And of course it's 107 degrees in the shade. I leave a trail of glistening tire rubber on the pavement as I head south. I pull into Lowe's, and apparently The Pope has stopped by for a shovel and a sermon, because the place is packed.

I claw my way through the mass of unwashed hillbillies and their inbred offspring, all of them fondling a John Deere riding lawn mower like they've just seen Jesus in the oil spill under it. I finally make it to the lawn and garden area. I begin my quest.

And find exactly two lawn chairs with that SKU number, both of them a little banged up and obviously the last dregs. The good ones are all gone. Great.

I call Terry. "Well, I think I found them."

"Okay, great, let me head back over to the chairs." I patiently wait while he apparently bangs his cell phone on any item containing metal during his journey. Three years later, he's arrived.



"It's GONE! The chair's not here anymore!"

I offer comfort. "That's okay. Let's just make sure we're talking about the same chair."

He's not listening. I can tell by his muffled voice that he's telling someone who has just walked up, "Somebody bought the chair!" I'm assuming it's Nina. This sidebar conversation continues for a bit, shock and dismay is expressed, somewhere in the afterlife Sylvia Plath begins a new poem. Then another male voice joins the conversation, presumably his brother Tommy, and again with the "Somebody bought the chair!"

I try to break in. "Okay, this model I'm looking at here is just like one of the batches of chairs I bought for the patio. How many does she want?"

"She just wants two."

"Well, there are two here, but they're pretty beat up. I don't think that-"

"Somebody bought the chair!" he tells yet another voice that joins the discussion. Okay, we're out of known relatives in this search party. Is he now involving total strangers in the trauma?

The 17-way conversation continues, with me throwing in sympathetic tidbits while Terry and Nina determine exactly how they are going to be able to go on with their lives without the chairs that Nina didn't even know existed two hours ago.

And then, wandering around in the heat and the noise, I turn a random corner, and I'm confronted with towering stacks of the same damn model of chair.

"Um, Terry..."

"Somebody bought the chair!"

Breathe. "Terry, I'm standing in front of at least 50 of those chairs. So we want two?"

"YES! Two. I can bring them back out here the next time I drive out."

"Got it. I'll talk to you later, sweetie."

"Love you!"

"Love you, too."

And of course, the last three lines of conversation make it all worth it. I pocket my phone and head to checkout. The heat, the noise, the inbreeding. John Deere dripping special Christian oil. No biggie, really.

But I will be having that martini.

Just as soon as they get the Pope Mobile out of my way so I can leave the parking lot.