I am one of the worst gamblers in the world. Lifetime, I am in the hole around $500. Which is not terrible in the scheme of things, but I have only gambled $500 in my life. Gambling unleashes a rage in me that I cannot control. I have only told two people “I hate you” to their face and both of them were blackjack dealers.
Because I project my insecurities onto my sons, I want them to be good at gambling. So I take them to Nickel City.
Nickel city is this amazing throw back in the northern suburbs. It’s located in a crumby strip mall, sandwiched between a Chinese food place and a hobby store. For $5 you can get a little sack of nickels, which may or may not add up to $5.
It features a bunch of super dated games from the 90’s, which take, you guessed it, nickels. Well, increments of nickels. They feature some of the grossest pizza in the world and watery Cokes, but the real beauty of the place is gambling.
Nickel City is crammed with games that deliver tickets to the winner. There is ski ball and basketball and other skill based games, but the boys’ favorite are the games of chance. Spin a big wheel for the opportunity to win 1,000 tickets. Hit a button, releasing a rubber ball onto a series of holes for a chance to win 20 tickets. Also, no limit Baccarat.
Our absolute favorite is “Pharaoh’s Treasure.” Drop a nickel into the top and it falls onto a big pile of other, less happy nickels. If you knock a few nickels into the trough, you get tickets. Drop a lot of nickels into the trough and you get lots of tickets. Dumping nickel after nickel into oblivion prepares Elijah and Luca for having their own sons. Bam!
Last Saturday, we were dumping nickels overboard when Eli’s machine lit up. “I got a Mummy Bonus!” Apparently a Mummy Bonus involves moving a little plastic mummy across the board with your nickel pile. If the mummy reaches a certain point, you get, like, 50 tickets. Eli was ticket rich.
I desperately wanted Luca to also be Mummy ticket rich. Mostly because I didn’t want to deal with ticket inequity at the end of the day. So we scoped out a machine that looked like it would pay off soon (a precarious Mummy). Luca dumped a handful of nickels in with little luck. He began to get frustrated, so I told him we could use my nickel sack. I keep a personal stash of nickels so I can play racing games and also to supplement Eli’s nickel stash since he burns through nickels like a desperate man bailing out a leaky life boat.
I pumped nickel after nickel into the machine and watched as the Mummy barely moved. This undead jerk taunted me with his greed. I grimaced at the sternly worded warning from Nickel City management about shaking or tilting the game. I did not want to force the clearly stoned front desk guy into having to bounce a 44 year old man.
After almost reaching my last nickel, or rather the last of my tolerance to touch dirty nickels, we hit the Mummy Bonus. I was Luca’s hero. He was a ticket twentyfiveionaire.
And then we visited the unhappy man at the prize booth. Luca told me, “This is going to be a while. I am only buying small things.”
I played my favorite game, Antibacterial Gel Dispenser.