The claw banged hard against the wall and shook violently. It's almost as if the machine was not an honest carnival game.
The big, metal claw carefully carried our prize high above the lowly unclaimed prizes.
"Hang on!" I exclaimed.
My wife grabbed my arm. My daughters made fists, ready to celebrate. The blinking lights and sounds of the arcade were drowned out.
The claw banged hard against the wall and shook violently. It's almost as if the claw machine was not an honest carnival game.
Sometimes life gives you lemons. But other times, life gives you a giant, pink bouncy ball that barely fits into the trunk.
Since I was a child, I have had a habit of winning prizes in those arcade claw machines. I've never noticed how much others win at the game, maybe it's just really easy, but it's a dumb source of pride in the family.
My daughters and I have an unspoken agreement that whenever we pass a claw game, and I have change, we play.
"Don't worry," I said as I stood behind my 6-year-old and watched her position the claw one Saturday afternoon. "This is in your blood."
She finagled the claw just so and hit the button to drop it. It came back up with a prize. My daughters cheered to a mostly empty restaurant.
The strategy, I tell them, is simple. Don't try to get the one you most want, go for the one you can win. For sure, this might be pessimistic life advice, but when it comes to the claw game, it's sound. And it is a strategy that has brought home too many strange creatures to count.
Like any good carnival prize, the claw game usually is full of cheap stuffed animals that might slightly resemble a licensed character in a legally gray sort of area.
These are the types of things that already are falling apart as you are winning it. And they smell odd, almost as if you should avoid contact with skin. But it sure does feel good to win, even something so meaningless.
Most carnival prizes make it long enough to be thrown out immediately upon returning home. Some fish are flushed.
But not Bob.
Bob is an androgynous, pink, stuffed animal with blue ears that we won at a Perkins in Erie, Pa., while visiting family a few years ago. He could be a platypus or a bear, but my daughter said he is a dog. She won it with help and quarters from her grandfather.
Currently, Bob is part of the elite group of stuffed animals who live on the bed.
And while all of my daughter's stuffed animals like me, my daughter said, Bob is not a fan. Bob's biggest problem with me is that I knock him off the bed when I sit down to read stories.
"Bob should be grateful that he's not living in the Erie Perkins anymore," I responded.
On spring break, we found ourselves in Erie again, at a water park enjoying some family time. In the arcade, we spotted a large claw machine full of giant bouncy balls. And the pink one was in a perfect spot to come home with us.
When I see a prize in our house, I can remember exactly where we were when we got it.
It's funny how memories can come so cheap.
Reach Dave at 330-580-8490 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DaveManley