Playful, Pius or Remembered Stuff

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009


I mentioned that I was a latchkey kid, growing up. Some of my free time was not spent wisely. Let me tell you about my dad's slot machine. He came home with a nickel slot--you know, a "one-armed-bandit" they used to call them. Now you need to know that private ownership of a slot machine was perfectly legal, as long as it was minimal and used only for family entertainment.

He liked to take things apart and fix them. And when he dismantled the slot, he discovered that each wheel had a series of holes. Depending on just how the wheels lined up at the end of each turn, a metal rod poked through the holes to determine if there was any payoff, and if so, just how much money ought to be paid. Some of the holes had been plugged, so dad realized the machine was "tighter" than it's original condition. He removed all the plugs and adjusted the symbols on the wheels to reflect the new value. All the stuff I just said simply means that he made the machine so it would pay off more than it did before.

Visiting friends would always find an attraction to the machine. Several of them enjoyed a small handful of nickels payoff. Most of dad's friends would feel a social obligation to pump the money back into the machine, but even if they didn't we were not about to go broke because of it. Well, I knew where the key was kept, and when I came home from school I would open the back, grab a bunch of nickels, and play the machine. It was fun to put the nickel in and pull the handle. The wheels spun around and the machine clinked a couple of times and it was all very fascinating. As long as I pumped all the nickels back into the machine before either of my parents got home, no one was any the wiser.

Well one day I did it. I inserted the nickel, pulled the handle, and clink, clink, crash! I had hit the jackpot. Money came out of the payoff tube, and nickles came crashing out of the display case as well. Money was falling all over the floor, and I was busted! It wouldn't work for me to just open the back of the machine and stick the money in the collecting tray. The display case on the front of the machine would be conspicuously empty! I had to try to pump all that money back into the machine before mom or dad got home. Now remember dad had "loosened" the payoff odds for this machine. So as I feverishly fed this little bandit and pulled the handle, it kept paying off the smaller increments of three oranges, three cherries or plums. Here came 10 more nickels. Now there were 20 more. Aaahhh! Why can't I lose? Doesn't everyone know the house never looses? It was a tough job, but somebody had to do it. I was dripping with sweat (perhaps it was mostly nervous sweat) when I finally finished my task. But I did it. Since there was no harm there was no foul. That made it a little easier to tell dad what I had done. But I didn't tell him for several days. He was pretty cool about it.

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