#520: Endless skeeball

18 Aug

Is there such a thing as too much of a good thing?

Yesterday, while enjoying what was supposed to be a carefree summer day at the beach, I was forced to contemplate this question.

It started out like any skeeball game at the sketchy arcade at Coney Island.  I got quarters from the guy standing at the front who kept piles of quarters in his pockets.  I dropped 2 quarters into the skeeball machine. I threw a couple of balls that made it into the 50 and 100 holes, and also a few that bounced off the glass and came rolling back to me.  I went through $5 of quarters while feverishly checking the ticket slot for my earnings.

I put in my last 2 quarters and resigned myself to finishing the last game.

And then.  Another game started up.

Now, I’d love to tell you my final game was just so unbelievably amazing that I scored enough points to win a free round.  I’d like to say I got 900 points.  But we both know that would be a lie on par with saying I think coconut is delicious.

So where did this game come from?  I didn’t know.  All I knew was I had to play it.

When it was over, I was delighted at my good fortune and extra tickets, set to go on my way and redeem the tickets for trinkets no one actually wants but that somehow make everyone inordinately happy.

But then.  Another game started up.

I couldn’t believe my good luck.  Was I actually in real life right now?  Two free games of skeeball?  One was improbable enough, but another?

There was only one option: play the game.

When it was over, another one started.  And then another.  And another.

Each time, I was expecting my luck to finally run out, and, satisfied with the remarkable chain of events that had allowed me to play so many extra games of skeeball, that I would approach the prize counter triumphantly.

But the games wouldn’t stop.

As ball after ball came sliding down the chute after each game finished, I began to question whether this was indeed a positive thing.  I know, you’re thinking, How could endless skeeball be bad?

I thought that, too, at first.  But when you’ve been standing at the skeeball game for 20 minutes, getting sweatier by the second, looking out at the beautiful blue sky above the beach that you were supposed to already be out walking along, you start to question everything you thought you knew.

Do I really want to stand here all day throwing balls up a ramp? you wonder.  Do I really want to spend my Saturday inside this stuffy arcade?  Do I really want to devote my entire life to playing skeeball?

No; no; no.

And yet, I couldn’t make myself leave.  Who would abandon a free game of skeeball?  It just seems stupid.

So I kept standing there, kept bending over, kept lobbing balls, kept wondering why the Skeeball Powers That Be had decided I was the one to receive this maybe not so wonderful gift.

Finally, the person I was with persuaded me to stop playing (read: he physically pulled me away from the game).  I cashed in my tickets.  I got some toys I’ll never look at again.  I went on with my life and enjoyed a gorgeous day on the beach.

Do I still think about that arcade a day later, wondering whether anyone else happened upon the endless skeeball game?  Do I wonder, if so, whether that person had the resolve to stay at the machine, possibly forever, unlike I did?  Do I sort of regret walking away from such a surreal experience simply because I knew I had to if I ever wanted to participate in real life again and not be stuck at Coney Island for eternity?

Yes; yes; yes.

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Posted by on August 18, 2013 in Sports


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