I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
June 8, 2011
As my rough band of renegades and I strode into Snappy Tomato, all seven heads in the place turned, a mixture of fear and awe plainly visible on their faces. I paused for a moment, lowered my aviators, and took a quick look around the room.
“It’s in the back, gang,” I muttered to the two henchmen flanking me. “Let’s roll.”
Confidently, we passed the greeter, the cashier, and the cook and made our way to the back of the restaurant.We had no time for silly pizza. We were there for one reason and one reason only.
After spending a disastrous summer of 2010 with few plans other than “relaxing” and “enjoying the break” (phrases that, incidentally, don’t sit well with 6 and 3-year-old children WHO NEED TO BE ENTERTAINED DURING EVERY MOMENT OF EVERY DAY), I spent a week last month mapping out the kids’ entire summer. Day camps were booked. Vacation Bible Schools were noted. Beach plans were finalized. Grandparents were called in as reinforcements. By the end of that week, every single day contained at least one set-in-stone activity or excursion.
And it all began with Crane Day- the day that we would do whatever it took to win a stuffed animal from a crane machine. Why?
BECA– USE IT WAS FUN AND A LITTLE BIT INSANE, THAT’S WHY.
I was armed with ten dollars in quarters and a list of nearby crane claw locations, helpfully provided by my Facebook friends. We’d been told Snappy Tomato had a machine that was full of WIN- and so of course, we hit it up first.
I had my doubts, though, as I popped in the first two quarters. The crane claw was small. The stuffed animals were large, and packed in together. This was gonna be tough.
Since I’m a champion crane claw machine operator from way back, the kids had already decided I would man the crane while they directed from either side of the glass windows. We also had made a pact that we would go for the EASIEST stuffed animal to win. Even if it was a dirty and torn stuffed monkey in a sea of brand new Steiff bears. It didn’t matter.
Easiest was best…est.
With that in mind, I aimed the claw for a purple hippo that was lazing atop the other toys. But after just two tries, we could tell that our efforts were pointless. The claw had zero grip. The purple hippo didn’t even move.
“This machine is a rip-off,” Punky said. “Let’s go to the next place.”
“Great idea,” I told her. I didn’t smile back at the manager who said goodbye as we made our way out. I knew his dirty crane claw secret. He wasn’t to be trusted.
Our next stop was Shoney’s. A former co-worker had informed me that Shoney’s was home to one of the best crane claws in town, and when we saw it for ourselves, we weren’t disappointed. The claw on the Shoney’s machine was enormous. The stuffed animals were in complete disarray, and clearly had been knocked around more than a few times. We decided to go for a tacky red dog, and within two tries…
HE WAS OURS.
My daughter squealed and immediately claimed him as her own, naming him Lucky and hugging him much like I would have hugged a $500 Boden gift certificate. (Oh, if only they had a crane claw machine full of $500 Boden gift certificates. I’d be there all day.)We still had a lot of quarters left, too, and that could only mean one thing.
“Let’s win one for Bruiser!” I said excitedly. The kids cheered.
And that’s when things started to go downhill.
The Shoney’s machine had a Clifford dog dressed as a fireman that was giving me fits. We’d drag him toward the drop bin, only to watch him fall back on his fat doggy a$ at the very last moment. Dumb dog. I wasted five dollars in quarters and attracted a small crowd of onlookers before we decided it was time to move on.
Next stop on our list: Toys R Us.
Toys R Us was a total disappointment, and we didn’t stay long. It had the same pathetically small claw as Snappy Tomato, and while the grip was slightly better, the toys had been carefully arranged to not budge. Boo.
We moved on to Pizza Perfect, where the game cost just 25 cents as opposed to 50. I thought that was appropriate since the Pizza Perfect claw was completely ineffectual. By this time, our efforts were half-hearted. We were all thinking one thing…
“Let’s go back to Shoney’s!” my daughter crowed. “Shoney’s has the big claw!”
I agreed, but I had to make a return trip worth our while. I called Hubs.
“Hey honey, this crane claw thing is taking longer than I thought. Want to meet us at Shoney’s for dinner?” We don’t go out to eat a whole lot because frankly, we can’t afford it. (despite SOME PEOPLE’S belief that I shop all day long.) But I had an ace up my sleeve and knew my husband wouldn’t refuse.
“Shoney’s?” he said happily. “I have a 50% off coupon for Shoney’s!”
Yes, my husband is a coupon clipper, at least when it comes to restaurants. He keeps a bag full of coupons from all the clipper magazines and sorts through it at least once a week. Just for fun. There. The secret’s out. Your man might keep a stack of car magazines or back issues of Playboy in his nightstand. My man clips restaurant coupons. I’LL TAKE IT.
“We’ll meet you there,” I said. “And uh, Hubs? Bring quarters.”
As we made our way back into Shoney’s, the employees looked up in surprise. One of them noted my glazed eyes and smiled wryly. “Need more quarters?” he asked. Clearly, he knew the Power of the Big Claw.
“No,” I said. “I’m good.” I’d used up all of my own money, but had thought to raid Punky’s piggybank before we left. Fortunately, she was as hooked as I was.
“You can do it, Mommy!” she whispered, pulling her quarters from her Barbie purse as we made our way back to the crane claw. “I know you’ll get Clifford this time!” I smiled at her and got to work.
I was on my fifth try and had only two quarters left when Hubs entered the restaurant. “We need all your quarters,” I said without looking at him. “Hand them over.”
“How much have you already spent?” he asked suspiciously. Evidently, he recognized my expression as the same one I got in front of the Plinko game at Chuck E. Cheese.
“Seven dollars,” I lied. It was more like twice that, but what Hubs didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him. He dug out his wallet and scrounged up two more quarters.
“This is all I’ve got,” he said. I took them wordlessly and inserted them into the machine. But it was no use. The claw scraped uselessly at Clifford’s stupid fire hat and then bobbed back up, empty. I stared desolately at Clifford and from behind the glass, he met my gaze with a mocking one of his own. Punky put her hand on my arm.
“Well, at least we have Lucky,” she said.
“But your brother…” I said brokenly. We looked over at him, where he stood atop a stuffed bench in the waiting area. He farted loudly and chortled. The man sitting beside him gaped.
“I think he’ll be okay,” Punky said. And she was right. Bruiser had given up on the crane claw game long ago, resorting instead to Entertaining the Customers. Smart kid.
As for me, well you can say I was a fool for wasting all my money on a cheap stuffed dog. But I have only three words for Crane Day 2011:
And that’s all anyone needs to know.