I was in a Phoenix bar one time, and after several gallons of beer, I started wondering about what I would do if I ever had to battle the devil to win back my soul (That’s the thing about alcohol…if nothing else, it really gets you thinking outside the box). I’m a business owner, a husband, a father of two, a friend to many — simply put, I take care of a lot of people. So I try not to let anything catch me by surprise, and I admit, I cast a pretty wide net.

Anyway, I’m not sure how the real battles with the devil proceed, because all the ones I’ve ever seen have been on TV, and they’ve usually involved a rotund blues guitar virtuoso, string ties, top hats and at least one dusty crossroads in Mississippi. But I’m not very good at music, and Mississippi terrifies me.

On that particular night, I decided that (and I concur today), to preserve the high drama involved in these sorts of showdowns, the devil would probably let you choose the actitivity in which you’d like to compete with him to salvage your soul. I mean, he’s probably really good at everything, and if you let him choose and he chooses something like short-program ice skating, then that’s just not even going to be a contest. Honestly, it’s just unrealistic and unworthy of even holding a competition. So, I chose typing. I’m past my typing prime, mind you, but I can still bang out 85-90 wpm when I’m on fire. Plus, see, the devil has hooves, not fingers, so — yeah? You see where I’m going, and all of a sudden I’m looking solid versus Old Scratch in a type-off.

But now, I’m thinking I should go with Ms. Pac-Man. Still a distinct fingers-over-hooves advantage in play there. Typing for me was an acquired skill. And acquired skills will eventually diminish as time goes on, you practice less and you regress to your regular skill set. Ms. Pac-Man, though, is in my blood.

You don’t know this, of course, unless you were down with the mid-1980’s Wichita, Kansas, Pizza Hut scene. That was where I got down and did my thing. Stand-up machine or coffee-table style? Bring ’em both and I’ll shove ’em down your gullet if you’ve got the balls to go two-player with me. Seriously, I’m 11 years old in 1985 and more than willing to go snag high-school kids out of their seats by the neck of their shirt and ask if they wanted a piece. I’d let them watch over my shoulder, but if I heard any sighing or complaining of the “I wish this guy would hurry up and die so I can play” nature — bam, elbow to the dome while I’m camping out next to a power pill waiting for Pinky, Inky and crew to get up in my business.

That line of quarters lined up on the ledge? That’s right, they’re mine. Go ahead and do the math — each of those quarters equals one hour. Add up that time, add it to what you see on the clock right now, and that’s when you might get a chance at my machine. Uh-oh….Pizza Hut will be closed then, won’t it, chump? Right. Now, walk your ass back to your checkered tablecloth and take a stab at the maze on the back of your Care Bears placemat. It was not uncommon for me to take down an opponent and let out a “Yeah, CHUMP! That’s what I THOUGHT! DON’T BRING THAT WEAK GAME IN HERE!”, and that’s when I was playing my own mom.

Speaking of my parents, I have to say their instincts were brilliant here. When we went to the Hut, they’d:

* get rid of me for the entire meal, because I’d be camped out at the machine until well after the pizza had arrived, been eaten and gotten cold. It was like a date, except there was an 11-year-old hyperventilating jackass in the car on the way there, and a gloating 11-year-old shithead in the car on the way back; and

* entertain me for an entire hour for 25 cents, which is a better return than anything Peter Lynch ever saw in his wet dreams. My mom and dad should run a hedge fund.

Anyway, I was dangerously good. Every few years, we’ll bump into an old machine, and if my mom’s around, she’ll immediately start rubbing her hands and fingers, talking some arthritis nonsense, so she doesn’t have to relive the beatings of my youth (and anyway, she’s a good woman who’s put up with a lot, so she deserves better). So I’m thinking that maybe this is a game I can win against the devil, if for some reason I should find myself in a situation where my soul is in the balance.

I get more practice with typing, but the devil is known to be wily; I don’t think it’s unrealistic to expect him, if I chose typing, to pull out a “hoofboard,” as it were, each of whose keys was the size of his hoofs. Then my competitive advantage is out the window. Thoughts?

For what it’s worth, I was also good at “Track and Field,” but there’s no way I could button-mash again Satan.