The phone rang at work today. I answered it.
The voice on the other end was high-pitched, a boy whose voice hasn’t yet broken. “I have Halo,” he said, “and I don’t like it.”
“What’s wrong? Why don’t you like it?” Innocuous questions, to be sure, but they’re asked to narrow down the reasons for why a customer might want to return a game and whether or not I can take it back as a return.
The response, however, sent the conversation into bizarro territory. “The game’s too hard. Halo makes me depressed.”
“The game depresses you?” I said, echoing back his assertion that the game made him “depressed.”
“Playing Halo makes me sad.”
I stifled a laugh. “Halo‘s not an uplifting game, not by any means, but neither is it a depressing game. Sometimes it’s quite cathartic to blow aliens into little blue pieces.”
“It’s just too hard. I get stuck. Can you help me?”
Was this his roundabout way of asking for help in playing the game? I usually cut those phone calls of with a curt “We don’t give out game tips.” I could have done that here. Instead, I decided to play along. “Maybe,” I said cautiously. “What’s the problem?”
“It’s the noobs. I’m getting schooled by the noobs.”
“But you’re a noob, aren’t you?” His initial question, the “I don’t like Halo” question, suggested that he was new to the Halo experience himself. Now I was trying to confirm that early assumption.
“No. I’ve played Halo for a long time now.”
“Then how are you getting schooled by the noobs?”
“I went away on vacation for a week, and now I’m getting schooled by the noobs. I used to be good, and now the noobs are killing me.”
“You shouldn’t have gone on vacation.”
“How do you figure?”
“If you don’t use a skill it atrophies. You stopped playing Halo for a week, and your skills aren’t as sharp. What you should do is play more Halo and rebuild those killing skills.”
“Will I still be depressed?”
If I could have shrugged on the phone I would have. “You’ll at least get more kills. If that makes you happier, then, no, you won’t be depressed.”
“Ask me a question.”
This was an odd turn. “What’s that?”
“Ask me a question.”
“Fine. What’s the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?”
“What?” he said in complete confusion.
I repeated the question.
“How should I know?”
“You told me to ask you a question. I asked you a question–what’s the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?”
“No, I told you I’m depressed. Halo makes me depressed.”
“You’re not depressed,” I said. “You’re just delusional.”
A dog barked in the background. Then more dogs. I heard another voice on the other end of the phone, this one more distant. And the high-pitched voice I’d been hearing dropped an octave and a half. “Can you talk to my husband?” the clearly male voice said as he dissolved into giggles and laughter.
And then he hung up.
I hit Star-69 on the phone. The area code wasn’t one I was familiar with. I pulled the phone book, ran down the list of area codes. West Palm Beach, Florida. I’m getting attempted punked calls from West Palm Beach, Florida. Some people have too much time on their hands. The heat makes everyone crazy.