When I was an undergrad, for some strange reason, I took a lot of medieval literature courses. The professor was cool, but that wasn't the main point. Rather, there was a continuing theme that ran through the sagas and poems, one that stuck with me, one that had been a part of my personal existence for some time. After taking a few undergrad courses (and this, of course, makes me an authority on the subject...doesn't it?), I am convinced that the vast majority of medieval literature was about one thing: the quest.
In medieval literature, heroes are always going on quests...to find some revered object like the foreskin of some long-dead saint, to slaughter and kill others who worship a different deity, to discover the magic rock that will turn any object into either gold or a better long distance plan, something like that. Likewise, teachers of this literature love to push the idea of a quest, usually so they can shove in some cheesy metaphor ("the quest of Sir Gawain to find the magic chalice that will kill the dragon is much like our own quest for knowledge to slay the beast that is ignorance," the teacher will say, as we, the students, try to hide our gagging faces). When discussing quests, these teachers also love to use the theories of some pseudo-hippy philosopher like Joseph Campbell, who's better suited for men who love gathering around fires, wearing loincloths, and beating their drums while reciting Iron John poetry.
In spite of the high schmaltz factor involving quests, I always have been drawn to them. Maybe it's some cultural memory of the time when my European ancestors were searching for the magic dragon or something (although they were more likely working the fields for that questor). Maybe it's some personal search for meaning. Maybe it's just a need for motion, a need to justify some largely irrational action...but the lure of the quest does call to me, from time to time.
In high school, quests would revolve around wild hairs. One of my friends was used to me knocking on his door at 2:30 on a Saturday afternoon, bundling him into my car, and the two of us driving from store to store, all around town, in the religious pursuit for someone, anyone, who had some used Frank Zappa...or that special brand of guitar pick...or bottles of iced coffee (rare, in those pre-Starbucks days). We would hardly ever find what we were looking for, but my friend would have plenty of opportunity to bitch about things, I'd have plenty of opportunity to smoke incessantly while driving around town, and we both would listen to a lot of loud music. Thus, the quest was good.
Eventually, everything else became a quest. I didn't go out to eat but instead looked for the perfect pizza. I didn't go out to a club but instead looked for the ultimate band. I didn't start college for an education but instead looked for the perfectly original idea. I didn't start dating but instead scanned the horizon for the one perfect person who actually got me...which was the one quest that, happy to say, I actually finished. All the others? They were important more for the motivation, the imposition of drive, and, of course, the voyage itself.
I still quest, but I do so with an increased awareness...that the main point of the quest is to bring drive and reason to what would normally be merely the mundane. Today's quest was a simple one, but it's one that, as always, taught me immeasurable lessons about life, the world, philosophy, and everything else imaginable.
Some time in December, I bought a Nintendo Wii. It's a fabulously fun system, and the spousal unit particularly has taken to it in a way that I wouldn't have expected...seeing as she probably hasn't ever played one before for more than a few minutes (and now she devastates me at Wii Tennis quite frequently). When we bought the system, we also wanted to get the WiiFit, but the store was out. I've tried to find it a few other times, but the display cases stubbornly remain empty. The WiiFit has become elusive, more so every time I hit Meijer and note its absence. Normally, this would just depress me, but instead, I realized that all the ingredients were lining up.
My desire for a WiiFit has officially become a quest.
First, the spousal unit and I entered an agreement to always look for one if we go into a store where they might be sold. Then, realizing that I didn't have to teach today until 5:45 and already had lesson plans done, I decided the time was right for an all-out store assault.
Final score? Seven stores visited. Absolutely no WiiFit to be found.
I started at a gaming store. They told me they get one a week. Toldeo Meijers didn't have anyone working the area, but they were certainly out. Toys-R-Us told me there are rumors of them getting one in either Friday night or Saturday morning. Best Buy looked like a Wii-seeking tornado had plowed through and taken half of their games...but leaving a massive stack of Guitar Hero sets intact. Target didn't even have the core system. Lord help me, I even went into Wal-Mart, but they were out as well. By this point, I was beginning to suspect that all WiiFits were swept into some Hadron Collider-created alternate dimension...because they sure aren't here.
By the time I got to Circuit City, I had developed a fairly zen-like sardonic approach to the whole deal. When the guy (who looked suspiciously like Seth Rogan) asked if he could help me, I told him, "I'm on a doomed quest for the WiiFit...don't suppose you have any, do you?" He told me that they actually had eight in the store Sunday, but they were gone within ten minutes. Apparently, when they get mentioned in the sales papers, people camp out. He recommended I do the same. I dunno, but it feels more like trying to get Stones tickets (which I've done & is a story unto itself) than a video game. There has to be a better way, but none has been suggested as of yet.+
Ultimately, I suspect that the WiiFit never existed to begin with...that it's all some giant, conspiracy-driven viral marketing campaign-slash-social experiment-slash-paranoid delusion of my own doing...that the quest I'm on is ultimately doomed, that I will wander the streets forever looking for something that only exists in the rolls of myth, lore, and legend.
Will that stop me, though? Hell, no...it's a quest.