(this is another post resurrected from my old blog. I've decided I like it too much to let it fester there.)
Today I fell in love with a plush chicken puppet. Alas, it was not to be…I was sitting at lunch when I noticed that the family style, neighborhood pub-type place I was eating in had one of those machines. You know the type, the ones with the claw and a bunch of stuffed animals which will allow you to experience frustration and futility for a bargain price ranging anywhere from one to four quarters.
I have eaten in this particular restaurant before. I'm willing to believe that this machine has been there all along, but I never really paid attention to it until today.Today, my attention was called to it because it was being reloaded. Given how rare it is to actually get any of these perfectly pliable plush puppets and whatnot out of the machine with its super-slippery, Teflon-coated, limp-wristed, stainless steel claw, I can't imagine how rare it was to have the opportunity to witness the restocking of the claw game. I probably should've been paying attention to the menu or something, but instead I was stuck staring in awe at the stocking of the claw game.
I have seen vending machines restocked in the past. With soda and candy machines this process takes one person a few short minutes. It will take a few more yet if they are properly rotating their stock to the forward positions. Since nobody ever manages to capture any of the stuffed animals with the claw, I have never seen one of these machines get reloaded. If today's experience is normal the claw game requires the trained effort of two people when its long-standing array of tantalizingly unattainable toys runs low or (more likely) expires from dry-rot.The reason for all of this work is readily understandable. Making customers struggle to capture the world's softest substances with the world's slipperiest grasping tool is not nearly challenging enough to satisfy the sadism of the machine's merciless masters. Clearly. Instead, customers (read: hapless child victims) have to try and pull them out of a tightly-packed, interlocked mass of carefully engineered stuffed animal that requires two very large, burly, pro-wrestler-looking guys to properly build it.
These two rather large men were actually under visible physical strain trying to load this machine. They seemed to be using a combination of brute strength and what I can only guess were toy-stacking methodologies passed down through a secret society of plush toy masons. The largest of the stuffed animals were stacked up first to build the pile to an agreeable size. They would then wedge the lesser-sized, intermediate toys into the gaps in between. Then, grunting and groaning to pry them apart, they would squeeze in a variety of the smallest "mortar" toys to ensure that the wall of fuzz was completely impenetrable.No slippery claw ever conceived or constructed by the hand of man could ever hope to put a dent in the pile of toys in this machine. These two plush toy bricklayers had built a stack so completely claw-proof that thousands of children could spend the next two decades throwing good quarters after bad only to be met with failure at every turn. These mercenary toy stackers had built for themselves a fortune in tears.
When the dust had settled and the claw machine's vault door was secured, I went over to admire their handiwork. It was there in the middle of the toy pile that I saw the plush chicken puppet that spoke directly to my soul. Although I hadn't realized it before, there was a plush chicken puppet-sized hole in my heart that was begging to be filled.Suddenly I was filled with contempt for the evil machine and its vile operators. Any respectable merchant would be happy to trade my hard-earned money for the plush chicken puppet. But these vicious bastards would instead demand that I spend hours beating my head against the machine and countless coins down the slot only to be denied my plush chicken puppet at every turn.
While I was tempted to try my luck, I refrained. I know that no matter what I do, the plush chicken puppet and I will never be able to be together as I had dreamed. I know that any attempt to hold my plush chicken puppet would only further their despotic scheme. Perhaps one day the tyranny of the claw game machines will come to an end, but until then I know exactly where to find my beloved plush chicken puppet.