I’m standing in line outside GimmeGimme (they’re giving away one-thousand free mystery boxes for Black Friday) when a SuperMegaNet notification pops up on my phone:
I go to swipe the notification away—and that’s when I notice that suddenly I’m daggered, loinclothed, and in black and white. Again.
Okay. Stay calm, Theo. So what if you’re in a busy mall and it’s Black Friday and people are looking at you like you’re, well, Tommy Carlton back from the dead and standing in a busy mall on Black Friday? This kind of thing could happen to anyone. I’m sure I’m not the first…am I?
I’m getting mad instincts to swipe myself home. I grip my phone tightly in my hand; my thumb hovers over the “Send Home” button. But I hesitate. Scrunch my eyes shut. Muster my every ounce of CBT, mindfulness, and plain old-fashioned stubbornness—kind of like when I’m using a public urinal, and I’ve already got my wang out, but I haven’t started peeing yet, and someone walks in to use the urinal beside me, and suddenly I’m stuck in public restroom purgatory, too embarrassed to pee, too embarrassed not to pee, and so I just stand there hanging dong with my eyes scrunched shut praying for the guy next to me to hurry up and finish so that I can hurry up and finish—
—I can do this. I am doing this.
I came here for the glory.
I shall have it.
Making my public restroom purgatory squinty face, I ignore the stares, pretend I can’t hear the snide comments or feel the open air on my nether regions as I hunch over my phone, trying to figure out why an SMN update would cause me to revert to undead child actor form.
“Your cosplay is so retro,” says this tween-ish girl who’s got her phone aimed at me. “Can I get a pic?”
I lift my head, frowning awkwardly and trying to decide the best way to politely decline. “Uh—”
She takes a pic and recedes into the teeming masses.
I lower my head again. I know Taurus Labs rolled out the virtual skins feature earlier this year. But I’m not virtual at the moment—unless they’re finally rolling out the persistent skinning feature?
“Son, you look awfully pale,” comments some older guy in a cowboy hat whom I’m almost certain is a Texas oil tycoon. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I reply.
He nods, takes a selfie with me, and is on his way.
Back to my phone, I pull up Taurus Labs’ Web site and do a search. The part on skinning is as outdated and unhelpful as it’s ever been:
Skins are a beta feature of SuperMegaNet. Using the Skins add-on, you can alter your digitized appearance, including hair style, eye and skin color, height, weight, build, and more. Currently, this only works in video chat, but with version 1.0 you can expect skins to function throughout your SMN experience. Finally, you can be who you always wanted to be!
“Hey, jungle boy!”
The crowd belches out this lanky twenty-something dude in a vest, skinny jeans, and trucker hat combo. “The 1940s just called—they want their celluloid back!”
“Yeah, nice crotch-rag, Bomba!” jeers the dude’s crappy sidekick. In epic eighties glam metal vibrato: “Fah-lay-ming!”
I raise a single eyebrow. “First of all, I’m not Bomba. Secondly, don’t you two have anything better to do than pick on someone half your age?”
Trucker Hat shrugs. “I’m a grad student.”
His sidekick as well. “My girlfriend dumped me.”
They take turns snapping selfies, are on their way.
The line advances another step.
Someone on Twitter has this to say about today’s SuperMegaNet upgrade:
Is anyone else persistently skinned right now? Just went all Mandalorian at Grandma’s pot luck thanks to the new #SuperMegaNet update. #techfail #wtf
12:31 PM · Nov 29, 2019 · Twitter for Android
Okay. So, it’s not just me.
The line continues to advance at a glacial pace. I pass the time reading SMN-related tweets and dimpling on autopilot for idiot consumers who think I’m some kind of cosplay novelty. At long last, I reach the front of the line, where (oh, my God) Robbie the Friendly Pedophile, apparently a GimmeGimme employee, smiles ear to ear and hands me my mystery box.
“Hey there, handsome,” he says, and reaches out to tousle my hair. “Do you like gymnastics?”
Luckily, the kid behind me shoves me out of the way and demands at the top of his lungs to get what’s coming to him.
I don’t hang around for the police report. I got what I came for, and now I’m quickly scurrying along the edge of the crowd and back out into the mall proper, momentarily oblivious to being nearly naked and in black and white and the subject of toy store creeper lust. I got my mystery box! There could be anything inside! A pixel art T-shirt! A sonic screwdriver USB charger! Funko Pop! vinyls! A cream-colored coffee cup!
Standing beside the Cinnabon next door, I rip open my box. Pause. Frown. There’s no shirt. Nor vinyls. Nor sonic screwdriver USB charger. Definitely no cream-colored coffee cup. There’s just a little trophy sporting a naked, proud-bottomed Goten posing with his hands on his hips. The plaque beneath reads, “Best Butt Award.”
I glance over my shoulder.
From the GimmeGimme entrance, Robbie waves and blows me a kiss.
This is the blackest Friday ever.