Lights and Lies


I wanted to kick off a new year of blogging stories right.  Could have gone with a bad pun.  Probably should have gone with a bad pun.  Instead, 2017 starts with a story of something that will happen throughout the year; straight up lying to my children.

Grocery trips generally take an hour.  By the end of the hour, the boys are exhausted, I’m exhausted, fellow shoppers are exhausted and my wife is very interested in me not being around.  When we finally pull our cart up to a check out line, the kids and I make way for the always empty corner of the store where a penny rider horse sits next to a RedBox and on one wall rests a claw machine full of fluffy, not completely covered in dirt (I didn’t know they existed in such a state) stuffed animals.

Bright flashing lights are a regular siren’s call for the wee ones.  After a minute or so of sitting on the penny rider (never actually activating the machine as it would terrify the toddler and I don’t know the last time I had a penny on me), the kids ask to go check out the claw machine’s stuffy stock.

When I was a kid, my brother and father were regular claw machine champions.  Every Red Robin or Denny’s we stepped into, they would plug a few dollars into the shop’s front lobby machine and join the rest of the family at the table with a whole menagerie of cuddly creatures.  They had a blast playing the game together and showing off the spoils.  It was nice.

Suffice to say, I know that claw machines can bring great joy to children and adult alike.  For the patient adult.  Which after an hour of gathering a few weeks worth of food while keeping children from running up and down the ice cream aisle shouting “I scream, you scream,” I am not.

At the end of grocery store adventure when the kids go to check out the fun and exciting claw machine, they always ask one question, “how does it work?”

“Well, children,” I say, in such an incredibly pretentious way I sicken myself, “the claw is moved by this joy stick and when you have the claw above what you want, press the red button and it will drop down and grab the stuffy.  If you get the claw just right, it will take the creature to the hole over there and it is yours.”

“Can we try it?” The oldest asks.  The toddler echoes a beat later.

And here is where I lie.  The machine’s payment options are quarters or credit cards.  The quarters acceptance spot glows orange and the card reader has running, blinking blue lights.

“Sorry, guys.  Orange and blue lights mean the machine is broken.”

I dread the day the lights don’t work.  My ruse will end in crushed spirits and a trip down the ice cream aisle.

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