I took Handsome to the Topsfield Fair today. It's America's oldest fair, founded in 1818 and still running for 10 days every October. I walked in with $90 in my pocket (after paying $10 to park in a muddy field), and Handsome wanted to go right to the Midway. Alright, I thought, no problem. I gave him $20 and told him it was his game money, and we strolled around a bit until one of the hawkers caught his ear.
"Step right up! Throw a dart, win a prize! Kids win every time," shouted the wiry tattooed man from behind his sunglasses.
Handsome heard the 'kids win every time' part, saw the size of the prizes hanging from the booth and was enthralled. He stepped up, paid his money and threw a dart. A balloon popped and he pumped his fist, flushed with the excitement of winning. Smiling, the booth proprietor reached below the counter and brought out an array of small stuffed animals, each about the size you might find stuffed into a Happy Meal. Looking puzzled and slightly let down, my son pointed to the giant stuffed prizes hung about the edge of the booth roof.
"Oh, to get those you have to play again. Each time you play you move up a prize level."
He pointed out level after level in the prize system, and I watched as handsome put down more money. Played again, put down more money, again and again until he lacked sufficient funds to play any more. Heartbroken, fixated on getting one of the largest prizes, Handsome turned to me. I shook my head. The hawker offered me a deal, skipping a couple of prize levels in return for buying two more throws.
"Please, Dad? Please?"
I had done the math, and I figured it might teach Handsome a little lesson, so I coughed up the money and he had his two throws. He walked away from the booth with a giant smile and an even larger pig. As we strolled along I asked Handsome "Now, did you keep track of the money back there?"
I got the big-eyed stare. "Ahh... no. But I got my pig!"
"Yes, you did," I said. "But we walked through the gate with $90 to spend for the afternoon. You want to know how much you just spent on that pig?
He squinched up his face a bit. "How much?"
"Thirty dollars. One third of the money we had to spend."
He was chagrined. He apologized for spending that much on the pig, but I said "Hey, I knew it was happening. I was keeping track of how much it was costing. But I wanted you to see that you need to pay attention to things like that, and try not to lose your head. Now, your game money's all gone, so how about we get some tickets and get on some rides? Sound okay?"
He was okay with that, so I slapped $30 down and got him some tickets. We went on a few rides, and he went on some alone because, as I told him, "The more rides I go on the fewer rides you get to go on, so let's get you on another ride, Handsome!" As we moved from ride to ride, taking turns carrying the pig, Handsome said again and again that he couldn't believe he spent that much to win one game, and apologized a few times more. I was satisfied, figuring that the lesson had been learned and could be pointed out in future times as an example of things to pay attention to.
We had ridden just about all the rides we were going to, when Handsome saw another game. Throw the ball, hit the target, win a prize. Hit 2 targets get the bigger prize, hit all three targets and get the Mondo Big prizes in the top row. Three balls for $3. I was sure that his interest was in the prizes he saw hanging up, and not the pretty blonde running the booth who was not much larger than he was. Sure it was.
"Can I try this one, Dad? Please?"
I looked at the game. Well, why not?
"Okay, you get one try. This isn't like the other game. You get one try and then we move on, got it?"
"I got it."
So I handed him three ones and he walked up to the gal running the booth. I stepped to the side and rummaged a bit, trying to dig out and turn on the camera while not dropping the Big Pink Pig. I missed the first throw entirely as I was doing this, and only managed to catch the last throw with the camera. I didn't actually see any of them land, but when the last ball left his hand and thudded into a target, an automatic fanfare began and a deep recorded voice bellowed out "You're a WINNER!"
The little @$%& hit all three targets in a row, bing-bang-boom, and won the big prize. As I watched the gal climb up to fetch a huge stuffed dog from the upper reaches of the prize rack I shouted "You mean I have to carry that thing too?"
We actually split the duty, he carrying the dog while I toted the pig about. Eventually an older man who was running another 'pop the balloon and win a prize' dart booth called out and offered us the use of a huge plastic bag for carrying the prizes about.
"You don't want to get those dirty," he said as he held the mouth of a truly gigantic plastic bag wide while we deposited Handsome's new treasures.
So handsome strode through the crowds of the fair carrying his booty slung over one shoulder like a pint-sized Santa with a see-through sack. I walked a few paces behind him, apologizing to people he inadvertently smacked with his over-sized burden and laughing out loud every time I saw a passer-by stare at Handsome as he hiked past, mouthing 'Oh my God!' and 'Look at that kid!'
I laughed a lot.
Letting my son play a game out of control in order to teach him a lesson: $30
Having my son win the next game he played, first try, to the tune of one of the bigger prizes, thus blowing my $30 lesson away like a fart in a windstorm: $3
Getting to see the smile on my son's face as he accepted his huge prize from a pretty gal: Priceless
And just for giggles, here's the video I got of Handsome winning his prize.
Talk to you later!