Friday, September 11, 2009

Urban Legend: The Skill Crane Story

Thanks to the miracle of DVR my boys are able to record and repeatedly watch episodes of Sponge Bob Square Pants. Every episode has its own unique story line so it's a little hard to pick a favorite but we all really enjoy the one called "Skill Crane". Zach is especially fond of this episode and is no slouch when working the DVR remote control. He is able to select a favorite part of the show and watch only that part many, many times. Irritating to anyone who actually wants to see the show in its entirety.

In "Skill Crane" Mr. Crabs has installed an arcade game in his restaurant in hopes it will bring in money. Skill crane is the name of the game and it involves a player using a joystick to position a crane above a toy prize, hit a button to release the crane's claw and then watch the claw possibly touch the prize but snap shut before it can grab the prize. Game over. No prize for the player but money in Mr. Crabs' pocket.

Ask any child about the skill crane game and he will know exactly what's you're talking about. He will probably share his own experience of the game with you. "Mom said I could play just once so then she gave me a dollar and I had a toy in the claw and I almost pulled it up but it was stuck so I didn't win anything but then I told Mom that I loosened it up and if I had one more dollar I know I could get it this time. Mom said no but my dad said to let him try and then he tried like eight times and couldn't get it and my mom said we'd wasted enough money and she could have bought a very nice toy with that money. My dad said that's not the point, the point is the skill and the challenge and the victory." Every story ends the same way. No prize.

Zach loves the part where Sponge Bob wins a toy on the first try. A stuffed bear he names Beary. Sponge Bob pulls the toy from the prize chute, holds it high in the air and says, "I'm a winner!" Sponge Bob continues to play and win, even getting two toys in the claw at once. There's no way that could happen in "real life". Squidward, an acquaintance of Sponge Bob's, tries his hand (tentacle) at skill crane but with no luck. He spends all his money, even his savings, and never wins a prize. Now that's more realistic.

Just a few days ago, Zach and I were leaving the grocery store and I notice a skill crane game near the soda machines. Zach sees it too. "Do you want to play skill crane?" I ask. "I want skill crane," he answers. Duh. Now it would seem that I am setting Zach up for disappointment except a quick glance at the machine before I offered a chance to play told me that Zach can play til he wins! As in, if the crane's claw doesn't pull up a toy, the player gets a chance at some cheap candy and the crane on that side always picks up a treat. So I figure we're good either way AND this machine is just fifty cents per game.

My small wonder, armed with two quarters and a memory of Sponge Bob winning every time, inserts the coins into the slot and the music starts. A stress-causing digital counter has started to tick off thirty seconds and I tell Zach go, go! He nimbly works the joystick, positioning it over a dog whose head just happens to be in the perfect, upright position. This compared to the other animals that are tossed about and packed down in a sure-to-lose manner. I glance at the counter. We've got enough time to really position the crane and make a play for that dog. I place my hand over Zach's thinking I'll just help a little and at that moment he hits the button that releases the claw. Gasp! We both watch as the open claw settles right on the dog's head, snaps shut and the crane begins to pull it up. Zach and I watch in silence but my mind isn't so quiet. The dog is coming! The dog is coming! Oh is his body going to be stuck? No it's coming! Oh the claw is swinging too much, it will drop the dog. Wait, wait....yes! The dog is released into the prize chute and Zach looks at me with big eyes. Fifty cents and fifteen seconds.

Zach takes the dog from the prize chute, holds it high in the air and says, "I'm a winner!" Then he hugs the dog and says, "I'll call you brown puppy." He tucks the brown puppy into a grocery bag and we go home. Nothing to it.

Later I ask Jake, "Guess what?" "What?" he replies. "Zach won a stuffed dog playing skill crane at the grocery store," I report. "No way," Jake says. I show him the brown puppy to prove it. "First try," I add. "I can't believe it," he says, believing it.
Did you hear the story about the boy who won a skill crane prize
on his first try?
The legend is true.


  1. You wrote this as well as you told it, feels like I was there. so much to gleam from this. Zach had no doubt he would win at the skill crane. How sad that we all doubt. Cant wait to learn some insights when he shares with us all.

  2. If I mail you a dollar, will you ask Zach to get me a lottery ticket, please?

  3. Keep up the blogging! Want to hear more Zach tales! It is fun to hear everyday experiences that just pass us by in writing.