Saturday 29 March 2014

Claw Machines

I saw something today that I have never seen before. It was while we were waiting for a table at Denny’s. I was watching a young man at one of those claw machines where you can win a teddy bear or some other crappy toy if you have the hand to eye co-ordination of a NASA astronaut. The kid won a hat today. I saw a show once about how they interlock those stuffed animals which makes it nigh impossible to pull one free.
I went over to him and told him that I’d never, ever seen anyone get anything from those machines. He was my first! It doesn’t matter that the hat didn’t fit, what mattered is that today I found out that all things are possible.

Needless to say, I have never had any luck with that kind of machine and there was a time that I spent considerably more than a stuffed bear was worth trying to win one. I gave up on the bears pretty early on though. I have almost no hand to eye co-ordination and I don’t have anyone to give a bear to anyways.

There was another kind of machine that I fed coins into at an alarming rate once upon a time. They were all over the Canadian National Exhibition grounds. The prizes weren’t stuffed animals or hats; in these machines you could win packs of cigarettes, cigars, lighters and knives. The prizes rotated slowly and you would press a button which would activate an arm that would (in theory) push a pack of smokes into an opening and then they would slide down to a door which would dispense the cigarettes or lighter.
They would create havoc if they were to have those prizes now, but back then, no one cared if I got lung cancer, burnt a building down or cut off a digit or two.  I spent a lot of money trying to win those smokes. The next year, I discovered that not only did carnies not care if I set fire to myself, destroyed my lungs or diced and sliced my way through the city; they didn’t care how old I was when I went to buy cigarettes. I could just go and put down fifty cents, get a pack of DuMaurier Kings and they would give me a pack of matches to go with it. Cool!

I remember sitting up in the nosebleed section in some building, watching horses go round and round, chain smoking. I didn’t know how to smoke at the time, but I knew it made me look cool. I was too young to actually bring a pack of cigarettes home, not wanting mom and dad to beat the living shit out of me, so I had to smoke them all that day. It doesn’t seem like it would have been a challenge, but it must have been.

I distinctly remember lighting five cigarettes at a time and puffing away like a human smoke stack. It isn’t that easy to smoke more than two cigarettes at a time, any more than that causes problems in the hand and in the mouth. I thought I could hold five at a time horizontally in my fingers, but they kept slipping out of order and falling in my lap. Just a hint, when a lit cigarette falls in your lap, don’t try to catch it by closing your thighs.

The best way to smoke more than five at a time is in a bunch. The thumb and forefinger can hold them together nicely and your mouth will naturally conform to the circle of cigarettes. I can’t imagine that I was inhaling at that time; I couldn’t inhale that much smoke when I was a pack a day smoker. I would just suck in the smoke and try to blow smoke rings, mostly unsuccessfully I might add.

You would think that my mom and dad would have noticed the smell of thirty or forty cigarettes on me, but back then they both smoked and so did almost everyone else. They may have noticed and not said anything, hoping that I would stop growing out of my shoes and clothes. Shoes and clothing cost far more than smokes back then.

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