How This is All Jerry's Fault


WE take an annual weekend excursion in April to the North Georgia mountains, along with several dozen of our friends, "taking over" one of the buildings at Unicoi Lodge, bringing snacks and drinks, and mostly eschewing television (except for the kids, who have a video room in one of the hotel rooms) unless there's a Braves game on, some of the multitude being baseball fans. During the long warm days, folks go hiking, visit the town of Helen or even venture north to Hiawassee, enjoy the fresh air. At night we adjourn to the common area for games, reading, etc.

Unicoi now has wireless internet, so many people were logging in computer time as we collected in the common area. Alas, apparently the wireless modem James bought for our laptop did not have good reception using the Unicoi node. I had to go outside in one certain spot to catch a strong signal.

Our friends Jerry and Sue have a little boy, Aaron, who had asked his folks for a new toy all the kids at school were crazy about. It was called a Webkinz, a stuffed animal. Each comes with a code which you enter on the Webkinz website. Once you do so, an avatar of your stuffed animal is created. You are given a room for it and can buy furniture and other gadgets, but you also must keep your pet happy and healthy. To earn more money ("Kinzcash") to buy food, other items to keep it healthy, and just plain "stuff" for your pet, you can answer quizzes, play games, do certain tasks every day, collect gems from a mine, even take a "job" every eight hours.

Jerry told us that they had helped Aaron with the games at first and enjoyed them so much they had purchased their own Webkinz critters.

"Here," he said, "I'll show you." and clicked on the website.

We admitted, it did look like fun. James plays many video games that seem to be of the adventure/military type: dodging and downing Nazis or monsters or the like. I've never been much into video games, except for a now simplistic 2-D game called "Jumpman" from back in our Commodore 64 days, which I still have on my computer in a PC version. (I have Jeopardy, which I've played a few times, Scrabble, an adventure game called "The Last Express," and something called "Sheep" [but had not played the last two because my computer at the time wasn't fast enough].) I get bored easily playing video games and would rather read.

Still, as Jerry took us on the Cooks' tour, it looked like fun. The games involved varying skills and none of them were particularly violent. There were word games, which meant it wasn't always a test of dexterity. And the little stuffed animals were particularly cute. There had been limited Webkinz at the time Jerry and his wife looked for them, so they had purchased tree frogs and even those were cute. But they came in all different varieties, cats, dogs, even cows and horses. Apparently they were sold at Hallmark stores.

I didn't realize it at the time, but we would soon be involved as well.