Saturday, October 17, 2009

Day Job, Meet Fake Job

My job as a beat reporter means I spend tons of time hassling elected officials. I cover Dewey Beach, Del., a 1.7-mile resort town where politics is as much a hobby as anything else. On occasion, I run into committee chairs or town commissioners in supermarket isles or in-line at Wawa. We shake hands, gab government for a few minutes and go about our business.

Rick Solloway has been mayor of Dewey for about a month, now. Despite being a novice at municipal politics, I was impressed by the firmness and decisiveness with which he guided his first council meeting. He’s a clean guy, young, trim and gregarious; the kind of dude you’d want to run into at a baseball game, or a sports shop.

Of course, I ran into Solloway in front of my local Gamestop, where his kids were shopping for a new DS game.

He stood outside the store, spooning chocolate ice-cream from a paper cup. The nor’easter in progress didn’t seem to bother him; he was already soaked through, his muddy cleats telling me he’d played softball through the gale. We clapped paws in a handshake and jawed about the recent roads committee meeting – flooded streets, department of transportation grants, so on. I was waiting for him to ask why I was here; shame burned my cheeks just thinking about it.

But why? There were other 20-pluses milling about in the store, I could see them now – the pale, portly specimens fingering used copies of Gears of War 2. I was assembling a confession when his son slapped a copy of Jedi Alliance against the glass.

“Pick one,” Solloway shouted through the glass, mouthing one and holding up a finger to prove the point.

“I’m here to pick up a game, too,” I muttered.

“Oh yeah?” he said, perfectly feigning interest.

“Sure. It’s indoor weather, you know?” Like hell he knew. The man just spent a morning cracking triples in a 30 mile-per-hour gale. He probably doesn’t believe in “indoor weather,” like he doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, or losing.

I briefly contemplate telling him about Bioshock: How it’s a critique of objectivism, choice, the FPS genre and videogames at large. But he’s smiling and nodding, and I’m suddenly very comfortable with leaving it at that – I’m buying a diversion on a rainy day, much as I might drop in for a matinee.

His kid slaps Jedi Alliance against the window. Now he’s nodding, confident in his choice. I almost say: You know, the Star Wars license has been real crap lately, they’re just farming it out cross-platform to maximize profit without a blessed care about quality or content…almost.

“Good choice,” I say, with an oblivious wink. “Take it easy, mayor.”