Let me begin by saying that this is not a post about aliens, conspiracies, or anything related to Area 51. Instead, this post is about claw machines. Grabbers. The games in the arcades with the claw you control by pushing a couple of buttons in order to grab a prize. Those things.
For some reason, in Japan they're known as UFO Catchers and they are everywhere. Every game center (read arcade) has at least a half a dozen, and every shopping plaza, mall, and department store has a game center.
My own fascination with the infernal things can be traced back to my freshman year of high school when, during a field trip, my class had lunch in a restaurant that just happened to have one. Somehow, on that one particular day, whether it was because the machine was slightly broken, or the fates decided to let me use up all my luck at once, I managed to score four or five prizes in a row. I promptly turned around and gave them to the girls in my class, in exchange for kisses and promises that I can not now remember, but which I could have written in fire back then.
The subsequent 18 years have been spent trying to reclaim that glory.
During the course of my week, I will find that there are times when I have twenty minutes to kill between classes. The only place to wait is in the parking lot or the community center, or in the arcade right next door. Sometimes I even have money to lose.
I'll usually limit myself to one or two plays and I have a rule that I always try to win something for my wife first. Don't ask why, it makes sense in my head and that has to be enough of a reason. Most often, I lose my money with grace and calm and in an appallingly short time.
Then again, somedays, when the stars have all aligned perfectly, I can still win.
Last week, I managed to get a stuffed Monokurobu (Monochrome Pig) for my wife. I then turned around and scored a remote control car for myself. Then I got the hell out of that particular game machine and I'm hiding in my office with my new toy, driving my wife crazy, until such time has passed that karma will have called off her dogs and I can play again.