A Preserve for the Unwanted

As many of you know, I go to a local sports bar to wet my whistle. M and I like our beer. We like it cold so we never order the large, bargain 22 oz. size. By the time I get to the bottom of the glass, its not so cold, so we basically stick to the 16 oz. pint glasses.

Anyway, we go to our watering hole and we always sit at the bar, whether we eat or not, cuz we want to sit in a place where we can order another drink without having to wave down a wait person. It can get smokey sometimes, but we’re former smokers who are used to the smell. I don’t particularly like it anymore, but if it’s a choice between smoke and slow beer, I’ll put up with the smoke. At the bar, we sit and talk, usually I’m watching whatever game is on. But recently I’ve developed a new addiction at this sports bar. The crane game.

This is a game where you maneuver a claw over a prize you want and then drop the claw hoping to grasp a toy and pull it over to a chute. Well, I used to be reasonably successful with the UFO Catchers in Japan and got some small stuffed animals for my daughter. But the ones in the US are a bit trickier. The UFO Catchers clamp down on the toy pretty securely so if you get it in the right position, you can pick up a toy, but the claw in the US game is looser and will slip right through the toy. M likes stuffed animals, so I tried a number of times, but to no avail. That thing sucked up more than a few dollars from my pocket.

Most of the toys were pretty ugly anyway, so I’ll buy you one instead, I would say. Now I don’t know if this has to do with men being hunters or providers or whatever, but she told me she’d rather receive an ugly toy that I “caught” than one that I “bought”… So I would try from time to time, but with no luck.

As regulars at Glory Days, we’ve gotten to know a number of the other patrons by face, and we would exchange nods of recognition. There is one rather large man who stands about 6′ but must weigh over 300 lbs. Apparently single, he comes virtually every night to order a dinner to go, and drinks a beer or two as he waits. He has long gray hair and a fuzzy gray beard–a super-sized version of the toys in the crane game–and M began referring to him as otousan (pops). But otousan seemed the lonely sort; he usually sits by himself and waits for his food, occasionally talking to the bartender. Once he learned I was Japanese he was willing to talk across the bar about his Godzilla collection and his pachinko machines, and I would politely nod and happily engage in some chit-chat with this rolly-polly man. Well, it turns out that otousan is pretty good at the crane game. He’d often win a toy or two and give it to one of the waitresses who otherwise ignore him. He doesn’t do it for the toy, he says. “I just likes the challenge.”

Well, I started tagging along with him to the machine to see how the master does it, and he would tell me that it was just luck. The only thing you had to remember is to aim for toys that the machine gives you, which not only meant the toys lying loosely on top, but also the direction the claw was twisted. He would sometimes swing the claw randomly around the box just to make it twist a bit one way or the other.

Well, after a few tries, something clicked and I started picking up toys regularly. And now this is what our spare bedroom has become: The Musubichan Preserve for Unwanted Stuffed Toys. Since the end of February, I think I’ve gotten over 60 of these things. they have completely taken over the bed and are threatening to cover the entire floor. I kid you not. Here are two who have taken refuge in our preserve: Mr. Turkey and Mr. Frog. Okay, maybe, maybe the frog might be construed as being cute *ahem* but the turkey? We had no choice but to take him in. Although, as you can see, they have been relegated to the floor–they look longingly up to the bed. Apparently there is a hierarchy among unwanted stuffed animals as well… Go figure…

So why is the crane game an addiction? Because M still enjoys getting them, and as long as she wants them, I’ll keep trying to get them. Besides, M wants to give these guys a home where they’ll be loved… Still, there are so many of them. It’s a good thing they don’t eat much, otherwise I’d have to charge somebody rent. But as long as M keeps them under control, I have not problems with it. As for otousan–who I subsequenlty learned, is actually a year younger than us–I’ll gladly keep him company in the meantime…

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