I was born in the 70’s, which means…I grew up in the 80’s. If you’ve read the history books about the 80’s (or lived in them) it was a colorful time…literally. Colors that no other decade would even touch (like neon anything), fabrics no other decade would wear (parachute pants?), and hairstyles no other decade would have have enough hairspray for(flock of seagulls anyone?) happened. It was a pretty confusing time too. Micheal Jackson was actually a respected artist, movies like The Garbage Pail Kids:The Movie, Howard the Duck, and Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure were made, and songs like Electric Avenue, Mickey, and 99 Luft Balloons were popular. I have no idea how I survived the decade, except that I figured out a way to not be trendy at all, which made me a nerd when being a nerd wasn’t so trendy.
There was a popular Saturday morning show on in the 80’s called American Gladiator, which I only watched because no other cartoons were on and I was desperate to be lazy as long as I could on Saturdays(basically it built the foundation for who I became today). American Gladiators was a show that a contestant would just try to survive. They ran through a physically challenging Gauntlet for cash and prizes. But the Gauntlet wasn’t just stationary objects, oh no. There was the additional challenge of running up against physical specimens called Gladiators. The best way to describe these people would be to look at the team of Dodgeball players that Ben Stiller had in the movie Dodgeball. Same huge physiques, same amazing names. If you go to IMBD, the names were actually quite similar to the Dodgeball names. We had Laser, Hawk, Zap, Turbo, Ice, Nitro, Gemini, Tower, Sabre, Lace, and Sky.
There was jousting, king of the hill, and my favorite, running through mazes where Gladiators shot tennis balls at you. If I remember correctly, not many people made it through unscathed and not many won either. Just like the Gauntlet you have to go through this time of year, and usually with the same amount of success. Here are just a couple of the gauntlets I’ve tried and failed to get through the past few weeks.
The Social Gathering Gauntlet – Imagine having to walk through a maze of people named Blaze, Laser and Blazer but instead of physical freaks, they are social pariahs. Some want gnaw your ear off (by talking too much), some are silent but violent(by trying to outsocially awkward you) and some are just plain creepy (putting a singing Santa hat on your head without your permission and not letting you take it off until someone takes a picture and promises to post it on Facebook). You might outmaneuver them by pretending to go to the bathroom, pretending to need more orange juice, or actually going to the bathroom, but eventually you will have to confront them face to face in the final challenge. The End of the Party Gauntlet, where you have to not only make your own way through the people wanting to say goodbye, but also get your family through. You may have been training your whole life on how to survive such a task, but it is on a whole other level when it comes to getting your whole family out. There are the kids wanting your son to wrestle just one more time, the girls trying to give your daughter just one more hug, the other guys asking if you can help take down just one more table, but the hardest challenge will be to get your wife to just say “See you guys tomorrow” instead of needing to talk just a little more so as not to be perceived as heaven forbid, Rude. It takes a powerful, smart and super bitter person to make it through this Gauntlet. I only have one of those attributes, but Do you have what it takes to be an American Gladiator?
The Holiday Shopping Gauntlet – This Gauntlet has been avoided by some who choose to go through the Online Fighting Gauntlet, but that is for another day. The physical stores make the prizes (your opportunity to buy cheap stuff for people that you barely know or care about) just a little too enticing with just three little words: In-Store Only. The challenge becomes part driving test/part in store driving test. Both involve multiple crazed lunatics (which of course you are totally not) who are after the same goal and prizes you are after, but in this case none of you know it. You’ve never met the competitors. They are randomly generated people from the same geographic area that are enticed by a little piece of paper in what the old people of your lives like to call “a newspaper advertisement”. Once they see a number that is promised as “our LOWEST PRICE EVER!!!(until next week)”, something compels them to move toward the store. Even then, none of the Gladiators know each other. But soon they will be engaged in a battle so fierce that none of them will wish they got up at 6 am to fight the traffic and the cold weather and the lines, just so they could engage in the battle for the cheap gift opportunity. But now that they are here, and they see the limited amount of items, and they know this is their only chance to look better in the eyes of their receiver, they know they must have it. Carts will crash, displays will be knocked over, nails will scratch flesh, and employees will duck for cover, until one emerges, with the 70 inch TV triumphantly held high over his or her head, allowed the special privilege to use their Target Visa with 20% interest to pay for something they will never view themselves. Do you have what it takes to be the American Gladiator?
There are many other Gauntlets out there, bitter people. What ones have you faced this holiday season? Or you an American Gladiator or an Utter Failure like me?
Bitter Gladiator Ben