Winning Prizes

At county fairs you can have a lot of fun throwing darts or hitting a hammer and dunking a poor sap sitting above a tub of water. At the circus, too, you can go for prizes like giant stuffed animals for tossing balls into tiny cups. You might like shooting galleries or other games of skill. The gifts are paltry but amusement is high.

I was at an arcade at a large regional expo one summer. It was upscale event and the crowd was decked out in finery. By that I mean expensive watches and pricey Italian leather shoes. That’s how you tell the in crowd from the riff raff. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised to see a game of chance that had an array of prizes that included various kitchen top-tier appliances. I am not talking about a budget mixer or a no-frills toaster like you get at bank give-a-ways for opening a new account. I am referring to really high-end top-of-the-line stuff.

Some gorgeous machines were sitting in a row above the arcade game opening, one after another as if beckoning to me. They were daring me to try my hand at a fast round of pitch ball. You had to aim well to make the target, which was pretty small. It was a hole painted with concentric brightly-colored circles. You couldn’t miss seeing it, but not many were able to get the ball in, or even get close. I guess it was just an investment in appliance PR – a come-on for the game. They were all still there glistening in the sun hours later.

If you made two in a row you could choose the one you wanted. I had my eye on the Cuisinart. This is one of the best hand mixers on the market and included all the necessary gadgets and attachments. (You have to want one even if you rarely cook.) I watched visitor after visitor try their unsteady hands.

A young man was standing near me. I think he had been there a while. He saw me drooling over the assortment of fine culinary treasures. He smiled and slowly grasped an idle ball. With a flick of the wrist, he had done the impossible. He slowly reached for a second. Luck was on his side. A brand new Cuisinart was now in his capable hands bedecked with a giant blue ribbon—a symbol of his success.

More startled than before, I took it from his outstretched arms. Was this romance, or even love? Was this kindness in disguise? “Don’t worry,” he said. “I am in the service and can’t take it with me.” I nodded with understanding. “I am an ace sharpshooter and also play darts for fun. I probably do it at least once a day.”

I would never have prevailed, not even once, not to mention twice. He had read my thoughts and stares. I thanked him profusely and promised to email soon. I trotted off in a daze of happiness and surprise.