Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 11.02.05
Stanstead, Quebec


It's my party and I'll shoot if I want to

Scuttling in the dark playing laser tag this past weekend, two things occurred to me: One, that shooting at people surely violates my stand on guns and violence; and two, when the zombie uprising occurs, I won't be of much help.

The outing to the laser tag complex was one of the latter stages of James's 12th birthday. In our house, birthdays tend to be extended affairs - more like birthweeks or even birthmonths.

We ease in, like getting into a hot bath, and slowly emerge, like coming up from deep-sea diving. You don't want to shock the system. The schedule goes something like this:

A) Several days, possibly weeks before, we give one or more pre-birthday gifts since, hey, there's no point hanging onto that dino-robo-monster truck when the recipient can enjoy it now. After all, that zombie uprising could occur any time and there won't be much playtime then.

B) Two days before, the gift from the away-grandparents arrives, clearly marked "DO NOT OPEN UNTIL BIRTHDAY." We open it.

C) Up to a week before (depending on the calendar, sports commitments, holidays, weather forecast, signs of the apocalypse) is the birthday party, with the requisite games, sugar, presents and sugar. Did I mention sugar? This leads to...

D) The sleepover by the top-tier friends. All other guests are sent home with a surprise bag and their choice of either a "better-luck-next-time" voucher for a sleepover next year or a slightly used dino-robo-monster truck.

E) Post-sleepover entertainment (optional; in our case this year, laser tag).

F) The actual birthday. This is the part where we light candles and sing "Happy Birthday To You." If the child is over 11, it is sung ironically so that the birthday boy or girl will feel free to roll his or her eyes, if so inclined.

G) Finally, we wrap things up by having supper with the nearby-grandparents, a perfect decompression from the über-fête.

(Incidentally, birthdays are excellent anthropological opportunities to study the state-of-the-nation of your child's age group. I didn't know, for instance, that 12-year-old boys hugged. I've seen older boys hug in that "my-homey-got-your-back" kind of way. But I thought 12-year-olds were too self-conscious.

Maybe it's a cultural thing. In fact, this should be the sole criterion for Quebec citizenship: if you can do the two-cheek kiss thing, you're in.

Last Sunday we found ourselves at Stage E of the festivities: laser-tag.

If you don't know what laser tag is, let me just say that whoever thought of it is a genius. It's basically hide-and-seek in a basement, except you wear heavy vests covered in lights and shoot laser beams at opposing teams. That's pretty much it.

The business has virtually no overhead, not even electricity, since players chase each other around in the blacklit, dry-ice gloom, hoping to score - reminding me a lot of my junior high dances.

Players are encouraged to adopt dramatic nicknames like "Morbius" or "Skywalker" or "Jigsaw."

I chose "Thor." Why? No clue, except maybe I was hoping someone would ask, "Are you Thor?" and I could answer, "Yeth I am."

So there I was, a 42-year-old pacifist who won't allow violent video games or toy guns in the house running around in the dark, pressing myself up against walls with my blaster ready Han Solo-style, jumping out from behind barrels shooting at 12-year-old boys. Ha-ha-ha-ha! Got ya, sucka! Who knew killing was so satisfying?

Of course, the scores at the end indicated that the kids shot me more often than I shot them, the nimble little shorties. To paraphrase The Matrix, I am clearly not The One. Not only was I a bad shot but I was sweaty, tired, and aching by the end of four rounds. I was Mighty Thor, indeed.

So when our civilization descends into undead anarchy, please don't look to me to save the human race. Instead, I'll be hiding in the dark in the basement.