Beware the KA-FWHOOM

For those adults in households without children (who, therefore, might be in blissful ignorance) I feel I should fulfill my Paul Reverean duty and report that modern life is beset by yet another insidious peril.

Forget one if by land, two if by sea. This is a three! We must now be on guard against the ever-present threat of encountering evil aliens from outer space.

I first detected them safely contained (so I thought) in an air-terminal amusements arcade. For some time, thinking they would go away eventually, I ignored them. But now it appears they are everywhere. Yesterday, I walked into the neighborhood laundromat and found one lurking between the folding tables and the soft drink machine.

They come in various shapes and sizes but seem to share this general characteristic: a TV screen (some in color) on which evil robot armies fly by in an assortment of fighter planes and warships, promising annihilation of our lovely planet unless YOU man the controls of Earth's sole defensive aircraft.

Buttons and levers are mounted prominently - just above the coin slot.

Unlike pinball machines of old, which, when not being played, had the good manners to sit quietly and leave you alone, the alien-invader games maintain a constant seduction.

One of those robot rascals keeps dancing across the screen. He is followed by a message, crawling from bottom to top in grand Hollywood style, that sets forth the challenge. A massive flagship will then glide through a universe of twinkling stars, let loose a torpedo which drops down the screen until, right before your horrified eyes, the Earth defender is blown into three dozen bits of phosphorescent smithereens. Accompanied, of course, by an aural attack of the most nerve-wrenching ''KA-FWHOOM.''

What makes the invasion so insidious is that the game is irresistible.

I mean, while your clothes were jostling amid the suds, could you spend 20 minutes standing idly by and permit Earth's solitary defender to be repeatedly KA-FWHOOMED out of the universe?

Realizing Luke Skywalker was occupied elsewhere in the solar system, and checking to make certain no 12-year-old would observe me, I boldly stepped forward to confront the invading hordes.

In all modesty, I may say I've done my part - successfully navigated through meteor showers and space warps while demolishing a good 80 percent of the enemy fleet. But not without sacrifice. While I was rampaging after robots, a terrestrial invader departed the laundromat with three of my towels, a face cloth, and five socks.

However, I refuse to be outmaneuvered. Next washday, I shall go down to the park behind my house where there is a lovely little stream and beat my remaining sock clean on a rock.

This will be less gratifying, no doubt, than taking that rock to the laundromat and dealing with the elusive 20 percent of the robot fleet in one delicious KA-FWHOOM, but what is the value of preserving planet Earth if, in the process, you cast aside human civility?

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