Thursday 2 February 2012

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Entertaining the Non-Rider - The Games

Theme parks are expensive. By the time you've spent an amount equivalent to your last mortgage payment to get in, the last thing you want to think about is additional expenses, but you know they're coming. The rides and shows may all be included in the price of admission, but the food isn't, the souvenirs aren't, and the carnival games certainly cost extra. Two of my kids I can distract with the next big, shiny roller coaster, but my non-riding daughter loves the carnival games, and since I dragged her to this theme park, I feel kind of obligated to play a couple of them with her. This wouldn't be such a problem if these games weren't designed with the specific purpose of making adults look like idiots.

Way, way back in my younger dating life, there were two dates that I always dreaded. The first was the "meet the parents" date, since at the time I didn't understand how my charm, wit, and good looks never seemed to translate all that well into the girl's parents liking me (Believe me, I understand it now!). The second was the annual group date to the PNE fair. The night itself was lots of fun, but you knew that at some point in the night we were going to wander down that row of ring toss/ball throw booths and have to listen to the chorus of "C'mon man, win the lady a prize!"

Now I knew that I could probably just run into the store around the corner and buy my date a stuffed animal for a quarter of what I was about to spend, but we all know that just wouldn't be the same thing would it? So out comes the wallet, and for the next half hour or so the group of guys would wander up and down the rows of carnival games, trying desperately to win our dates something that would prove our manhood (which at sixteen was laughable at best). Some of the guys would get lucky, and within the first five minutes their date would be carrying around a new stuffed dog, talking about how she was going to name it after the guy who won it for her. My night never seemed to take that turn. Usually it would end with either the booth guy feeling sorry for me and giving me a small conciliation prize, or my date would get tired of waiting and win her own bear. Neither of these outcomes boded well for my getting another date, which was particularly disappointing if I'd already gone through the hassle of the "meet the parents" process.

So now I find myself in an eerily similar situation, only this time it's my daughter who is looking to me to win her a prize. By the way, in addition to inflation running up the price of games over the last twenty years, it now costs me double to play these games because my daughter wants to play along side me. I tried explaining to her that the games are rigged, but my case isn't helped by the steroid fuelled Guidos walking around with 8 foot tall stuffed bananas that I'm sure they must have brought from home because nobody ever wins the jumbo prizes.

You can't reason with family though, so my daughter finds the prize she wants me to win (because that's how it works) and we sit down to play...and we lose. Then we lose again. In fact, despite the fact that there's now two of us throwing money at these games, we may be even further from winning than the 16 year old me was. The end of this debacle only comes when I look over to my daughter and say "Daddy has no more money left" (I learned early on to take all the money out of my wallet except for enough to play a couple of games because my daughter will ask to see my empty wallet. She is her mother's daughter after all.). The sad face on my daughter when we don't win is heartbreaking though, so after a few failed attempts, we've come up with a plan.

We now only play group games, in particular the game where you shoot water into a clown's mouth to blow up a balloon or make an item rise in a race type scenario. When the five of us sit down to play this kind of game, we automatically qualify for at least a medium level prize, meaning that after just one game we're going to walk away with something that makes my daughter happy. It's just a question of which one of the five of us is going to win.

Well, actually it's just the four of us. See, my job in this game isn't to win the prize. My job is to make sure that nobody outside of our family wins the prize. If you're brave enough to sit down at the game when our family is playing, be aware that you will get wet. Possibly soaked. My ineptitude for carnival games has finally found it's purpose as I can randomly spray water anywhere and make it look like I'm simply the most uncoordinated person on the planet. I might spray you, I might simply cross your stream, or if I really need to distract you I might "accidentally" soak the game attendant. Whatever it takes to throw you off your game. If you sit down to play with us you'll get my apologies for dropping the gun and getting you wet, but you won't get our prize.

I realize that just the game fee for the five of us is still probably double what the prize is worth, but as I said before, it's just not the same is it? For some reason a prize won is worth more than a gift bought, so I overlook the logic issues and whenever we're in a theme park, I'll usually allow my daughter to win a prize. I'm just glad that Lori doesn't expect me to win her a prize. If I'd known Lori back when I was 16, she'd probably still be remembering me as "that guy I dumped when he ran out of money at the fair".

Up next: Entertaining the Non-Rider - Taking Pictures