Wednesday, September 09, 2009

All's "Fair" In Love and Carnie Games

“I want to see you play a game,” she said as we strolled among the ring tosses and dart games and water gun races at the Manitowoc County Fair recently.

I could say that I was forced into foolishly spending money to play a game I couldn’t win, just to impress a girl and win a prize I didn’t even want.

But I knew I was going to play one particular game as soon as I saw it. This game and I had history, and I wanted to show it that I was still the master.

The game of choice involved three pieces of four-inch PVC pipe, sitting on a shelf about six feet high, with two pieces side by side on the shelf with about an inch of space between them, and the third piece centered on top of the bottom two.

The objective: throw a softball at the three pieces of PVC and knock all of them off of the shelf at once. Aim it correctly, and you’ve won yourself a prize. Nothing to it, right?

That’s what I thought several years ago when I first saw the game at a fireman’s picnic in Sun Prairie.

There was a big, stuffed Tigger hanging there as a prize that year, and for reasons that escape me now, I wanted that Tigger.

So I bought my two balls for five bucks, leaned up as far as I could, took careful aim, and threw the softball with a dart shooter’s motion at a contact point I thought would work. One or two of the pieces fell, and my attempt fell short.

“No, no, no,” said a buddy of mine who’d had a few beers earlier that evening. “You have to throw the ball…get some velocity on it to knock ‘em all down.”

So I backed up a few feet and wound up for my second one, missing my target completely. (I may have had a few beers that night, too.)

I bought a couple more balls, went back to my up-close dart shooter’s strategy, and continued to almost win...two balls and five bucks at a time.

Eventually I hit the right spot, and they all tumbled off of the shelf, and I took home my $20 Tigger.

When I saw the game at the fair, I scanned the back wall of stuffed prizes and saw nothing I wanted to take home. All I knew is I wanted to make those three pieces of PVC drop.

I paid my five bucks, threw my first ball, and didn’t even come close enough to get excited, hitting all three pieces but leaving two of them still resting on the shelf. I slid a few feet over to another stack and threw my second ball, knocking two of them down this time.

“You’re close, buddy! You’ve got the right idea,” said the guy working the game.

Just what I was looking for. False encouragement from a guy who wanted only one thing. Another five bucks.

I paused for a bit, took a few steps back to talk strategy with the girl I was trying to impress, and stepped forward again, plunking down another five bucks.

Same result. Good aim, good motion...ohhh, so very close. But no prize.

Meanwhile, a lady in her 60s with about five grandchildren in tow came walking up and bought a couple balls, too. With a wild-armed throwing motion she missed with her first attempt.

But on her second one, she found the target and all three pieces of pipe went flying off the shelf.

A couple of us who saw it ooh-ed and ahh-ed and clapped for her, and she came over to me and said, “Not bad for an old grandma, eh??” Then she picked out a stuffed monkey/ape/primate-type thing with a T-shirt that said, “I’m bringing SEXY back!” on it, handed it to one of the children and said, “Come on, kids, let’s go.”

And off they all went to claim another prize at another game.

The guy working the game caught my attention and said to me, with a little bit of a grin, “I’ll give you three balls for five bucks. You were so close before. You almost had it!”

And away we walked, empty-handed, and only ten bucks down.

Anybody wanna buy a big, stuffed Tigger? I’ll sell him cheap. Twelve bucks.

“The economic game is not supposed to be
rigged like some shady ring toss
on a carnival midway.”

—Arianna Huffington


  1. And i'd thought i'd had a few too many...I could've sworn it was the Cottage Grove Fireman's Picnic... :)

  2. I um...uhh...

    ...yeah. Maybe it was.
    I should probably fix that.

    Heh. Thanks, TheKid.

  3. i bet *she* was impressed anyways:)