It happened one day when I was ironing (people still did that then) and decided to turn the TV on. (Ironing is incredibly boring). I was immediately hooked. I got so emotionally involved in that soap that by the end of the month I realized I was spending more money on Kleenex than food. (When I get upset I cry. When I get upset, I also lose my appetite.)
Had I thought about my old soap addiction, I would have realized that when I played the video game Frogger for the first time it wouldn't be my last.
I grabbed the Play Station controls, followed instructions given by my son's 5-year-old son, and selected my frog. I picked the green one. You had your choice of red or green, and my money was on au naturel. He just looked to me like he had more bounce to the ounce.
Then I picked a course to follow. It was a tossup between the lily pad laugher and the tricky traffic tragedy. I picked the latter. My brother used to suggest I go play in traffic. This was the first time I'd tried it.
I pressed start. My frog sat perched on the side of a four-lane highway. It was supposed to hop unscathed across the road to the other side, jump on a floating log, hop from log to log downstream until it got to the opposite shoreline, where it was to jump a flag. A flag is a point. Three points win the game.
My frog looked both ways, and started across the street.
I got another try. (Notice the "I" in the previous sentence. I had already begun to identify closely with the frog).
BOING. SPLAT. That yellow delivery truck came out of nowhere.
I got another try.
BOING. BOING. BOINGBOING. BIG SPLAT. I had croaked again - this time under the wheels of a speeding semi.
I edged closer to the screen.
This time I looked both ways, waited for the semi and the yellow delivery truck to pass, and hopped into the first lane. I had looked well before I leaped.
I was veritably jumping with joy. I had finally reached the other side of the road and the shores of a small river.
A log floated down within view. I waited on bated belly for it to come within reach. I timed my leap carefully, and then ...
The log had sunk, with me on it.
I found myself sitting at the side of the road again.
I found myself to be hopping mad.
Three hours later, still without a flag in my possession, I sat on the edge of the road, contemplating suicide.
That's when I decided I need help.
A psychologist seemed like the logical way to go. Before I made an appointment, however, I decided to ask my friend's 8-year-old daughter how she was able to lay off video games. She would watch, but refused to play.
"I stopped playing when I was five," she said. "My friend Lauren and I were playing a video game and I died after the second Goomba got me. (spelling?). I never played after that."
Smart kid. Lousy eye-hand coordination, but a great mind.
Could I go off frogs cold turkey?
Could I sit in front of that highway and refuse to hop?
I would try. It would be a real leap of fate, I thought.
I took the controls in hand, and just sat there for a second, breathing deeply. Another second had passed without incident when (honest-to-God-it-wasn't-my-fault) I suddenly found myself in the first lane, dodging that semi.
So much for will power.
Terry Talbert is a Herald-Mail staff writer.