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I am a pinvangelist.

I have discovered my mission in life, and that is to bring pinball to the people and the people back to pinball. There is a longing in their souls, I can see it, an aching gap that can only be filled by the healing touch of the flippers and the arcane symbols traced in speeding argent across the tables.
And it is not hard, friends, to find Those Who Would Be Called. Merely mention The Word. "What are you doing for lunch?" someone at my office will ask. "Grab a quick bite," I say, "then play some pinball."

"Pinball?" And the light in their eyes gives them away.

"I haven't played pinball since_" That is more than enough said. I invite, they follow. It is a ten minute stroll from the office to the arcade, and they never discuss work on the way. Talk inevitably turns to old arcade games, the video games of the eighties, sometimes the memory of someone who had a table in their rec room.

There are those who fear the stigma. After all, pinball? What self-respecting adult would---

And they see their peers, in suits and ties, taking their lunch at the arcade. Nudging and bumping tables. Working the ball. Smiling with satisfaction at the replay pop, just another job well done during the workday. It's all right to be here. Arcade buzz slips into their bloodstream and they relax.

I always go up first. It sets them at ease, reminds them of forgotten things that come back in a rush of youth because pinball is always familiar. The simplicity of flipper buttons instead of the pattern-recognition convolution of beat-'em-ups. Only a kid can properly work an MK4 for more than twelve seconds, but the man next to us, twenty years my senior, is having his way with Twilight Zone and making it look easy.

When I drain, I step aside to watch the nervous smile, listen to the uncertain laughter. It's all part of their conversion. Once that ball gets up a head of speed, targets are dropping, sound effects slamming in their face, we own them, pinball and I. From my perch just over their right shoulder, I offer advice and encouragement: "Don't forget that upper flipper!" "Shoot for that flashing hole." "Nice save!"

We leave the arcade after a game or two, and my convert turns to me and says, "Thanks. That was fun."

I am a pinvangelist. This is my reward.

Updated Sep 15, 2005 Written by John Shanahan
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