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The Day I Got Ruined
Dr.Bedlam posted a topic in Off-Topic RampancyA thing I remember very well is the day my grandmother took me to see Harvey the Choo Choo Man. I believe I was eight or nine at the time. Harvey was a fellow my grandmother had worked with, but now he was retired, and was in his mid sixties, and she'd asked if she could bring her grandson to come see the model trains. Harvey was agreeable, and one day while I was visiting, we went to go spend an hour or so with Mr. Harvey, or The Choo Choo Man as his friends sometimes called him. I wasn't real anticipatory. I'd seen toy trains before. Whoopee. And life had conditioned me to expect that spending any amount of time in the presence of the Ancient Ones was going to be an exercise in teeth gritting boredom, varied only in the amount of time one was expected to sit quietly and smile and be a pleasant child while the Ancient Ones rattled on about ancient and dusty matters of no interest to a child. Sure, grandparents were great at THEIR place, but watch the hell out if they wanted to take you somewhere and show you off... Well, I was wrong. Harvey the Choo Choo Man couldn't decide if he liked HO or O scale... so he had an entire room in his house dedicated to each. He'd built great plywood tables with a control center in the middle of each with ENORMOUS model train layouts, scaled and accurate to the leaves falling off the tiny trees. He was one of those guys who'd picked up a copy of a model railroading magazine, and thought, "Yes, I could devote entire paychecks to this." In the hour or so we visited, I mostly stood in various places with my mouth hanging open. Harvey found this terribly amusing, and from time to time would move me to a different place and show me a different aspect of a layout... the cargo cars that actually dumped their cargo into cargo trucks... this one automobile that would actually drive around the block, controlled by a little doohickey in his Control Center in the middle of the table... this one area in the park where he had a little family where Mom and Dad were laying out a picnic blanket, with a baby in a basket nearby, while Dick and Jane kicked a ball around... It was all very detailed, and extremely impressive. I'd never seen anything like it before. I was quite stunned, and remember being impressed to the point where I was unable to think clearly, and fell back on Polite Grownup Default for communications... "Yes sir. Thank you, sir. Wow, this is neat, sir." It wasn't quite what I wanted to say, but I was quite sure my grandmother wouldn't be happy if I said what was really on my mind: "Holy [expletive deleted,] sir, this is [obscene adjective deleted][obscene gerund deleted] amazing! What line of work were you IN that allows you to spend this kind of money on cool [expletive deleted] that no sane adult would normally waste his spare scratch on?" For a grand conclusion, he had me stand in the control center in the HO room and slowly turn a knob to the right. As I did so, the lights grew dim... and dimmer... and a constellation of Christmas lights slowly lit up on the ceiling... and the streetlights came on... and the houses' interiors lit. When the knob finally quit turning, it was nighttime in HO land, complete with one house that had an odd flicker to its lights; if you bent down and looked, you'd see that he'd rigged a little blinky light behind a tiny TV set in a tiny living room, so it looked like the TV was flickering. Glance to your right, and you'd see a similar effect in another living room... but in red. In a tiny fireplace. I admit it; I was blown away. Later, on the way home, I was able to shake enough of the awe out of my skull to ask my grandmother some questions. "So... what line of work was he in that let him spend all that money on toys?" She told me. "And no one thinks he's weird or anything?" "He's a grownup," my grandmother said. "He's a successful person, he had a career, and now he's retired. No one can tell him ANYTHING, so long as he doesn't break the law." "And it's okay if he plays with toys?" "He's earned it." And that was the day I got ruined. When I discovered that grownups could play with toys all they wanted, so long as they paid their own bills and stayed the hell out of jail? That's the day I became the man I am today. Or at least, the day I got started. That was the day my future changed... the day my possibilities of respectability in Proper Society ceased to be. The day I realized I didn't have to jam a stick up there when I turned 21. The day I realized that adulthood is not a function of age, or vice versa. The day I realized my freedom. I can play with toys all I want, and if you don't like it, you can all go t'hell! And now, the break is over, and I'm going to go paint some Cthulhu rats...