Everybody is good at one thing, be it sports, waterskiing, art, tying a cherry stem with your tongue, fixing things or even eating 62 hot dogs in 10 minutes.
We each have a knack for something, and mine happens to be mastery of an arcade game.
Suffice it to say, I’m basically the king of Whac-A-Mole. When it comes to superiority in this game of dexterity and skill, I’m peerless. If this arcade game had a hall of fame, I’d be voted in the first year of eligibility. My favorite place to play is at Lagoon.
I’ve been going to Lagoon at least once every summer for as long as I remember, and I never tire of smacking the molded plastic noggin of the rodent back into the hole from whence it came. I even carry my own rosin bag, like pitchers and gymnasts, to get a better grip on the padded club.
I’ve won every kind of stuffed toy imaginable: bears, bunnies, dogs, Power Puff dolls, bananas and even the enviable inflatable crayon. I've never quite figured out the allure of that one, but I digress.
I never lose. Ever! Well, until that fateful day a few summers back when history was forever altered in Farmington, Utah.
It was a hot day, my clothes were sticky and people who ought not be seen wearing certain swimsuits in the pool area let alone elsewhere were obliviously walking around in them in plain view on the midway. Darn that Lagoon-A-Beach!
I had just taken out a second mortgage to pay for my jumbo corndog, churro and a 98-ounce drink in a huge plastic container shaped like an alien.
The fattening funnel cakes were beckoning me and the tops of underwear on both males and females were clearly visible. Still, life was good, mullets and bad tattoos were at a minimum and I knew my kids would go home with some plush toys courtesy of my expertise at Whac-A-Mole.
As I approached the game for my second round of wins, I was challenged by an elderly gentleman. I thought, this poor guy has no idea what he’s in for. I even felt bad for his grandkids. Then bam, within 30 seconds I’d been beaten by a senior citizen, 100-90.
I was flabbergasted. How could this be?
I then proceeded to beat, no, pummel Gramps into submission for three straight games before he backed off. I pitied those grandkids no more — ol’ Metamucil breath had lit a fire under me. I won a fish, traded it for a lion and finally a cute white teddy bear with a red ribbon. I walked away still a little shaken by my first loss, but reasoning that one setback after decades of victory was no biggie, just a fluke.
Later in the evening, I headed for the Tilt-A-Whirl with my daughter to meet my wife and the rest of the kids and found WAM beckoning me once more. This time my challenger was a little child. I couldn’t win that easily, so I let my daughter stand in. She lost, which I attribute to inexperience and not a problem with her genes. I then challenged some teenager and I, too, lost. What is happening? Twice in one day! Are you kidding me? I played again and lost again. Arghh!
This time I protested to the employee, “But I hit every mole that came up, I didn’t miss one."
“Well, he was quicker,” came the reply.
I wasn’t buying it. My clothes were getting stickier and it was getting late. I then lost yet again! My world was spinning out of control and my self-confidence shot. I was a jittery, doubtful clump of goo.
Then the game malfunctioned — three consecutive times. Never had that happen even once before, let alone three times. This only ramped up the tension. I looked over at my kids with their hopeful eyes, and though they were cheering me on I sensed fear that I was no longer the king. I felt like half a man and was a nervous wreck; somehow I soldiered on.
The next game was a draw. A draw, are you kidding me? Is that possible? I could now taste the adrenaline, and it was piquant to say the least.
The next and coincidentally last game I played, I won. I won and openly wept. I grabbed the puny stuffed dolphin and headed for the parking lot.
I’ve since had much time to reflect on the events surrounding that dark day. I didn’t shower for weeks after or leave the house; I grew a beard and lost 23 pounds. As much as I hated to admit it, I was shamefully rusty that day.
That has never happened since. I no longer rest on my laurels and innate skill unleashed once a year on Lagoon patrons but instead stick to a strict training regimen at Chuck E. Cheese in the offseason.
Sure, they only accept tokens and the prizes aren’t as good, but the tokens are only a quarter and the place smells like pizza.
David Candland would love to change the world and is keenly aware that he "kind of" looks like Elvis and talks too much.