Friday, July 31, 2009

Snake in the Grass, Coca Cola Slurpee

It's important to grip the adder firmly behind the head,
so it cannot twist and bite you. Be strong.

Snake in the Grass, A Coca Cola Slurpee Betrayal

In an effort to offset the crushing sadness inherent in my being a guy who gets up for work before six and seldom gets home before ten, I bought an xbox. This was to ensure that the twelve free minutes I enjoyed at home each day weren't frittered away on my wife, or my cats, or my robot or my novelization of this blog. None of those things hold up to being cursed at by the effeminate voices of the next-next generation, a rather high strung people thick with racism and innumerable other incarnations of ignorance.

I mean, really, I have yet to meet a twelve year old who actually knows what "hull down" means. What do kids learn in school nowadays?

So in this "xbox" there is a game called World at War. One of a myriad of World War II games where we get to take the role of soldiers who never lived to be our grandfathers. While playing these men doomed to never don the mantle of "confused giver of unwanted and uncool Christmas gifts to ungrateful children", you can earn "achievements".

At least I think that's what they are called. An achievement is acquired when you've done something deemed noteworthy by the game designers like killed three enemies with one bullet, or having team killed your fiftieth crying eight year old.

Achievements, by the way, are pretty arbitrary. I've done things I thought were pretty remarkable but went unrewarded by the happy little pop up bubble announcing my accomplishment. In World at War, for example, I managed to roll a tank all the way over and back onto it's treads. Pretty cool, and I've only ever managed it once, no matter how much effort I've devoted to repeating the feat. But, roll a tank - no accomplishment. Neither do you get an accomplishment for making your friends sputter with anger, or for choking on a grape during "Headquarters". Fall off a building roof, however, and the game congratulates you.

I've fallen off roofs before, and nowhere in my swimming vision was a pop up commending me for it. Blood, gravel, stars - but no pop ups.

A charming characteristic of achievements are their often clever names. "Hammer Time" and "Soul-Survivor" are two examples. Maybe not so charming. "Saved Private Ryan" is another that quotes popular media, kids love that.

One particularly not charmingly named achievement is called "Snake in the Grass". You get it for shooting a Japanese soldier in a gilly suit while he is hiding in the grass. In the campaign versions of the game, there are numerous places where enemy soldiers hide in the underbrush, then leap up and rush you with bayonets. After playing once or twice you learn where they hide and can gun them down before they act.

Not very sporting - after all, it's basically cheating to use knowledge of the ambush to forestall an otherwise unforeseeable event. But that's sort of the point of any xbox game, to break the unfolding of the game so as to play it out with the least possible enjoyment.

But, "Snake in the Grass": an incredibly easy achievement to collect. I have it, got the way I described above. I'm not proud of it and certainly didn't learn from it. I wish the achievement conditions had been refined a little - that you only had the chance to earn it the very first time you passed through a level, before you learn where all the enemies are hidden.

But that just means that someone would release a cheat guide, detailing enemy locations so you would enter prepared. It's my honest belief that xbox players hate a challenge more than anything else, except possibly being surprised by something.

As someone who has a bronze medal in shooting threats before they manifest themselves, you might think I wouldn't have been surprise-bayoneted by a slurpee. But like I said, my qualifications weren't honestly earned.

Here's the story:

I was craving a Coca Cola slurpee, but the dispenser at the local 7-11 was broken. Two weeks went by without satisfaction, even the Burger King slurpee dopplegangers were consistently unavailable. During that time I even pressured my workmates to buy me a slurpee from a nearby town when they drove over on business. They merely laughed in a sinister manner and consistently "forgot".

I started calling the 7-11 and asking if the machine was online, to save myself the six block walk. Eventually the machine was fixed, I was informed via telephone and scudded over to fill my void.

I was immediately suspicious, the machine which dispensed Coca Cola slurpees wasn't repaired, they had merely changed one spigot on the sister slurpee machine over to Coke. This wasn't a well reasoned suspicion, but more of the feeling a cat seems to get when it enters a room and discovers something has been fundamentally changed about it's universe, maybe that someone dropped a sinister envelope on the living room floor or left a frightening umbrella leaning in the corner. Alert!

So I filled my cup, tasted and a screaming Japanese soldier rushed out of the weeds and stabbed me in the mouth with artificial banana flavoring. Alas, the worst of all artificial fruit flavors - and in my mouth no less! The slurpee machine had not been cleaned out properly, and a horrible flavor lingered from before. Awful.

Having committed myself (those cups are inventory!), and still burning with slurpee lust, I resigned myself to my imperfect drink, cut it with extra fountain Coke, paid and left.


[Note: This was written on my iPhone during my daily commute. Please excuse the ad hoc nature of the writing, and any totally bizarre words. I would assure you non sequiturs are the result of the auto-spell build into my treacherous phone.]