The razzle-dazzling, dinging-bejazzle of the Las Vegas Pinball Hall of Fame Museum Arcade (which may or may not be its official title) are unexpected as from the outside, this gray slab of building resembles the older model Costco’s. Like, back when they were Price Club, older model Costco’s.* While the off-the-strip structure appeared almost morose in comparison to the bling of The Strip proper, it was a welcome sight after a few hours winding my way through hotel lobbys stuffed with smoke, gamblers, and tourists whose styles made those who wander the streets of San Francisco look tame.
Plus, inside was a sort of gaming I could get behind: dating! (And pinball!)**
My date, C, met me in the parking lot. Well groomed and only a tad nervous he said “Hello!” and in we went. After a quick tutorial on how exactly to play “two-player pinball” (aka, how to play against each other and try to win), we went hog-wild with the themed machines. There were a gagillion to choose from: Dr. Who, Star Trek (TNG, DS9, Original), The Simpsons, The Sopranos…anything you could imagine with a remotely described cult following has a pinball game. And ye-olden day p-ball is just themed to ye-olden day things, like Dominoes (not pizza) and Camp (not band).
C was a gentleman and a scholar, though in a muted way on the latter. He reminded me of me a few years ago. Say what I will about not having a ton of self assurance, but the me of yesteryear was quintuply less assured. While we had fun launching balls, figuring out machines, chatting about our favorite nerdtastic things (we had different geek-out loves, so conversation flowed) and playing a round of Pac-Man which he rocked the house at. I liked C as a person, but while we had fun, I wasn’t sure about any long term dating possibility. Give him a few years to grow into himself (is that called maturing? I don’t mean that – the guy was mature in many ways) and figure out his life, and he’d have me thinking let’s do this second date thing next time I’m in town! But he felt like par-baked bread who needed more time to cook.
All this led me to wondering what to do next. Do I agree to have a drink with him? Was it simply the venue (a loud, jangly arcade) that made getting a feel for him hard? Should I trust my instincts? If I continued the date, would I be wasting his time or giving them the wrong impression? What if I didn’t want to date him after drinks but he wanted to date me more? Or do I cut out early, not stay for the politeness factor, and put things I’ve been practicing while on the road to the test (namely, doing what is right and actually nice even thought it’s hard rather than doing what feels nice to me and getting to hell on those good intentions I’m always toying with)?
I was certainly torn, and despite all the clangs, whisps, clinks and sssswhips of the present, my mind flickered backward. Conversations in the car with Megan about what is fair and right in dating, to talking with our Ohio homestays about feminism and choices, to North Carolina’s conversation about intuition and the sometimes burden of knowing what is playing out before you get there. Dates that had sucked royally that I couldn’t get out of, dates that had sucked royally that I did get out of (and the relief I felt), dates that were mediocre and dates I wished I’d had more time with. Where did this date fall? Would there be regrets? Did his feelings matter more than mine? And did I know what dating in Las Vegas was like – not the touristy part, but the real part, where people live and grow up and learn?
I could tell C wanted to spend more time together, and in good faith I didn’t want to lead him on. I knew I could happily hang out with him longer but for me we had already fallen into platonic-ness I was not sure could be wrestled out of.
After a session in a photobooth, I bid him goodnight.
*Funny thing about Costco/Price Club (hey, anyone else remember the brief interlude of Price Costco?): they’ve maintained a very similar business model. Hot dog stand and lady with a highlighter out front. Membership required to even enter the premises. Great Sunday free sample spread.
**Hm. Probably shouldn’t equate dating with gaming. Joke, folks.