What I like about “cue”

6:30 p.m., Thursday
4600 Wisconsin Ave. N.W.
Babe’s Billiards Cafe

I had poured every last bit of information in my head into my morning math and politics midterms, and I needed a break. Luckily, I knew just the place to go – Babe’s Billiards Cafe in Tenleytown.

After a transfer at the Metro Center train stop and a frenzied escape from a group of German tourists, my friend Joe and I finally reached Tenleytown. Then we had to walk three blocks between the Metro station and Babe’s – with Thursday’s harsh wind the walk seemed like miles, especially to this Southern girl. But we finally arrived at the shiny billiards haven unscathed. With slightly worn forest green walls and gigantic pool hall mirrors, Babe’s Billiards Cafe fit the image of the classic pool hall I imagined.

I had heard Babe’s was a fantastic place for late-night breakfast and great pool-playing prices. And while the prices were wonderfully low, the pancakes were a different story. Somewhere along the line I had morphed into my 88-year-old grandmother from Minnesota where the word “late” has a totally different connotation than in the big city. Babe’s did not agree that 7 p.m. was late enough to start serving breakfast – it’s open until 3 a.m. and starts serving breakfast later in the night. So I had to settle for a chili cheeseburger instead.

After Joe and I had filled ourselves with an order of crispy potato skins, two Cokes and two cheeseburgers, we set off to shoot some pool. However, it soon became clear that the game of pool and I were not going to intertwine like I hoped we would. In the first two minutes, I managed to trip twice on nothing in particular. In the process I almost ruined a high-stakes pool game among a stereotypical smoke-ringed circle of ruthless pool sharks and ended my life prematurely. Luckily my guardian angel saved me at the last moment; I luckily stumbled into an unoccupied pool table instead. To these sharks, billiards was business, and I very narrowly escaped shutting down the whole operation.

Besides the one rough crowd of high-rolling, hard-core pool enthusiasts, the rest of the crowd seemed to be made up entirely of high school students yearning for some kind of romantic opportunity to write about in each others yearbooks. As much fun as it seemed to be amidst that somewhat romantic display of awkward chivalry, Joe and I decided to head over to the make-shift arcade located in the back corner of the hall.

As we rounded the corner, there it was, gently calling my name as if we were old friends and it had known I was coming. Nestled in a small arena of buzzing and flashing arcade games was a gloriously retro foosball table. I guess I have to admit that I was drawn to it mostly because of how cool it looked – I’m not what you’d call a foosball pro. It had sleek plastic black and yellow players and worn down metal handles. The 75-cent game fee was pocket change, even though in college every cent counts. As Joe inserted the quarters into the game slot my heart beat with excitement at the sound of our five allotted foosballs rolling down the table’s chute. Even though I have no real hand-eye coordination, I put up quite the defensive front. I guess I can’t be surprised that Joe – the proud owner of his own foosball table – managed to beat me – someone who can manage to hurt herself while brushing her teeth and who has never really played foosball in her life.

I’m a bit ashamed to say that I didn’t win the second game either. But the score was tied until the end. Given how klutzy I can be, that is a pretty big accomplishment and one I am positive had nothing to do with the fact that Joe was only playing with one hand.

After I very graciously gave the title of “Foosball Champion” to Joe, while secretly crowning myself the real winner in spirit, the most glorious sight caught my eye. Shining brightly, like glinting sequins on a tacky holiday sweater, was the best arcade game ever made. There, with her darling red bow adorning the top of her yellow circular body, was Ms. Pacman. This was something that I could achieve glory through, unlike stupid foosball. Four levels of daring joystick movements and harrowing escapes from the evil ghosts later I finally let go of the joystick. I’d run out of quarters. It was time to go.

Even though my original goal of becoming a bona fide pool shark was not accomplished and my stomach was not filled with pancake goodness, I left happy. I had learned that foosball, as tempting as it might be, wasn’t really the sport for me. I had achieved a kind of immortality through Ms. Pacman and most importantly stayed in from the cold. If you have the money, and fierce determination, head over to Babe’s. Just make sure to keep yourself away from the sharks and stay away from that dumb foosball table if you’re too good for it, like I am.

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