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  • Writer's pictureMichael Apollo Lira

The people you know

I'm going to start this blog off with a memory and a few thoughts of mine to go with it.

If everything happened according to plan, what good would life really be? I think the real beauty in things working out is when they don't happen according to plan.

Life and this world are too complex to simply go according to plan. Where does resiliency form in that mix? Extra-ordinary resiliency, adaptability, and growth all generally occur when things don't go according to plan. Growing pains, I suppose. But when we are stronger, we are often thankful for it despite the journey traveled.

This story is about things not going according to plan. A task that failed successfully.

In 1996:

  • the first sheep was cloned.

  • Don't Speak by No Doubt was filling the radio waves.

  • Tupak Shakur was shot and killed.

  • The Unabomber was captured.

  • Jim Carey was all the rage in entertainment.

  • Taco Bell would play an April Fool's prank that year, claiming that they purchased the Liberty Bell and renamed it the Taco Liberty Bell.

  • The very first Game of Thrones book was published.

  • And the Macerena was in.

Lord, forgive me for my transgressions.

But what I remember most about that year, was the release of the Nintendo 64. As you may have deduced from my homepage, there is a small possibility that I was a kid who loved all things Nintendo. And I did. I still love the content they produce, though I don't make much time these days to play the newer content or purchase the newer systems. My heart remains retro.

I was in middle school. I had the standard apathy about most things that a kid that age carried, and in general, I had no idea just what the heck was going on.

But I did have a subscription to Nintendo Power Magazine, and I thoroughly read each issue. I had been saving my money up for a big Nintendo event that year...the release day for the N64. And I intended to get my hands on one.

Now, it would be prudent to mention where I lived at this time. I grew up in a small college town called Pullman. It's located on the far eastern border of Washington, right next to Idaho. At the time, Pullman was a town of around 25,000 people when its typical college population was present. There was not much out there aside from Washington State University, farms, some small businesses, and a very similar picture in the neighboring town of Moscow, Idaho.

Upon learning about the N64's release, multiple phone calls to various local businesses would narrow down the release to only one location: the nearby Walmart that had recently been built. Nowhere else would be carrying these coveted gaming systems for quite some time. And Walmart would be receiving a shipment with a grand total of ...5. Was I allowed to reserve one? No. First come, first serve I was told.

In my middle school head, the next logical step to this problem would be to camp out at Walmart. To do this, I would need to talk to my parents.

Now as an adult, I have no idea what on God's green earth compelled my mom to agree to my request. She agreed on the condition that she drove us there and we slept in the van for the night. Like...what??? This was a weekday, just for the record, everybody. My mother AGREED to spend a weeknight sleeping in a van in a parking lot, waiting for a video game system with her son. As an adult working a full time job, I'm completely blown away by this. All I can say is that I carry nothing but the utmost love and reverence for what parents will do because they love their children. My mother is an absolute saint and EVERY time I think of this memory, I have to smile and shake my head. This amazing woman.

So we camped. And slept poorly. Vans from the 1990s it turns out, aren't terribly comfortable. But as morning approached, I decided it best that I claimed my waiting spot out front of the store. Surely enough, in the coming time, a small group of people showed up as well - all for the same purpose.

When the store did open, we all hustled our way to the electronics department, only to be greeted by an employee who explained that there were no available Nintendo 64s. We were given no explanation. The Nintendo 64s that Walmart had received were accounted for already, despite being informed that we would not be allowed to reserve any in advance. This was perplexing, but at that age I wouldn't say critical thinking was something that was high on the list of my brain's functions. Of course I can see how fishy and suspicious that is as an adult today. But at that time, I merely felt disappointment and sadness over the situation. Resignedly, after a few minutes of standing around the electronics department and not knowing what to do, I departed Walmart. Sweet mother was very supportive of that disappointment. We carried on with our day after that. She went to work, and I went to school.

My friend Andrew, another fellow Nintendo fanatic, was eagerly awaiting the news that I had acquired a Nintendo 64 when I arrived at school that day. I filled him on the news of the events that happened, and after some commiseration, we went about our day. And the rest of the day seemed to go pretty normally.

In most cases, this would be where that story ends. This would be the part where I said something along the lines of "and then for Christmas that year, I received a Nintendo 64" and accompany it with a cute cookie-cutter thought like "Good things come to those who wait!"

But that's not at all what happened.

As I often like to say: life has a funny way of happening.

That evening, I was summoned upstairs by my parents regarding a phone call. My parents were holding the cordless phone and explained that Andrew's mother was on the line and wanted to speak with me. She was a lot like a surrogate mother to me during my adolescent years - I spent a great deal of time in her home, playing video games and eating her food.

She calmly asked me to explain what had happened that morning at Walmart, in detail. And I did. And my parents stayed near and curiously watched this dialogue unfold in its entirety. She asked questions, and I elaborated. She asked more questions, I answered. By the end of the phone call, I had explained the entirety of the situation in full technicolor, by those days' standards.

"I'm going to call them" she finished with before hanging up.

"huh" I thought. It seemed moot to me.

Turns out, it was not moot.

The phone would ring again later that evening. This time, however, the manager of Walmart would be the one calling and asking to speak to me. More curious looks from my parents.

A terribly friendly voice on the other end of the line apologized for the confusion that had occurred that morning and informed me that there was now a Nintendo 64 available and being held just for me, if I was still interested.

"Sure!!" I lit up. I looked eagerly at my parents, who clearly knew what had already been said. They were smiling.

I ran to my room, grabbed my saved up wad of $20s, $10s, $5s, and $1s, then darted to the van once again, where my sweet mother awaited.

That night, I would come home with what to me was a holy grail. I would carefully unbox it, admire the beauty and perfection of this pinnacle of gaming technology...

...and there would be absolutely nothing else that I could do with it.

Because it turns out, that NO games would be released for another two weeks.

Oh, the irony.

In the naivete of my youth, I had believed that Diane had simply cleared up whatever confusion there had been that led Walmart employees to think that there were no available Nintendo 64s on release day.

As I grew older, it would become very apparent that Diane was a fierce advocate for social justice in this world. If misdeeds were done or people seemed preyed upon, she was on it. I mean, like, impressively on it. She was passionate about matters like that.

More recently, when reflecting on my memories of Diane, this memory resurfaced. And I realized she really must have given them some kind of hell over the ordeal for everything to reverse course like that and fix itself. And while it was a good deed that I ignorantly thanked her for in my younger years, I wish I had remembered it more recently to thank her for - with proper clarity.

Had I not known Diane, this story would have carried a different ending. Or had she not felt the need and urge to act on the matter.

The people we know are a massive influence on how things play out in our lives. The last few jobs I've had in the nursing field (flight, ambulance, ICU, and now interventional radiology) have all stemmed from people I know. To shift the light from personal to professional on this subject, this is a big part of why networking and relationships are an important part of success in anyone's life. So much of what gets to happen to you is through the people that you know. That's an incredible edge to have in life, in so many immeasurable ways.

Foster your relationships. One day, someone just might come to the rescue unexpectedly.

This entry is lovingly dedicated to Diane M. Zollars

December 12, 1946 - September 30, 2021

"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."

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Nov 03, 2021

Well I wasn't expecting to cry over a voice-over blog today. Seems the world lost a bright light in Diane, but I love how she left an indelible mark...really that is what the best people do, quietly teach us life lessons through actions. Thank you for this story, relationships really are the foundation of a fulfilling life.


Oct 25, 2021

Great blog Michael. I remember spending waaaaayyy too much time playing Mario Carts 64. And well done Diane. She left a nice memory for you.

Michael Apollo Lira
Michael Apollo Lira
Oct 25, 2021
Replying to

Oh Mario Kart turned into a family event sometimes in our household. My dad still loves to laugh like Wario and yell out "Imma gonna win!!"


Tyler Robbert
Tyler Robbert
Oct 25, 2021

Oh my, my, my! I vividly remember walking into Wal Mart (or maybe it was a Meijer; I grew up in the midwest) when I was ready to purchase my own N64! It wasn't '96, but I distinctly remember the disappointment I felt when they didn't have the translucent blue one that I'd had my hopes set on. I went hope with an orange one (a terribly difficult compromise for a perfectionistic child), and promptly lost myself in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Pokémon Stadium 2. It's amazing how crisp those memories remain all these years later.

My experience wasn't as sentimental or meaningful as yours, Michael, but I appreciate you sharing about Diane. What an incredible…

Michael Apollo Lira
Michael Apollo Lira
Oct 25, 2021
Replying to

Tyler, thank you for such a thoughtful response! I always assumed that the N64 would simply be the peak of technological capability. It never dawned on me that fancier technology and systems would later be developed and roll out. It will always be a marvel to me. I MISS playing Zelda!!


Josh Alexander
Josh Alexander
Oct 24, 2021

We need more foot soldiers like Diane out there! Bless you, Diane, for helping my friend get his Nintendo 64 that had no games. Bless you for rallying to his cause of gameless play. Bless you for carrying the mantle for The Eradication of Unrequited Game Console Sleepovers and securing my friend his precious console. And bless you for living in Pullman so that this could all happen so that today, October 23rd, 2021, 25 years after Taco Bell's prank (don't THINK I would have missed THAT mention), there would be justice for my friend and he would be able to release a powerful blog about things and games and sleepovers and WalMart and stuff. Bless you, Diane.

Michael Apollo Lira
Michael Apollo Lira
Oct 25, 2021
Replying to

I wish I could have spent more time talking to her as an adult. But she was a great influence. The world needs more people like her.

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