American in Spain

Coin Operated Amusement

August 28, 2009

The other day I took Nora out for a walk. We stopped at a bar with a terrace, and I ordered a glass of wine and opened a book. Nora was content to observe the other patrons. By bad planning, I was situated right next to one of these coin operated amusement vehicles, the kind that the kids get in and the machine moves and plays music when a coin is inserted. That is when the following events took place.

Kid: [runs at full speed to the machine and climbs inside] Daddy, daddy!! Look!

Dad: [unemotional] Wow, yes, that's nice.

Kid: Make it go! Make it go!

Dad: [checks pockets] I don't have a one euro coin, son. I'm sorry.

Kid: But Daaaaaad!!

Dad: It takes a one euro coin, and I don't have any.

Kid: [thinks for a second] I have one!

Dad: Where?

Kid: In my pocket!

Dad: [dubious of his son's purported wealth] Okay, stand up, let me check.

Kid: [stands up, lifts up his shirt, and thrusts hip towards father]

Dad: [digging around in pocket] Nope, nothing in there.

Kid: Awwww..... C'mon, Dad, make it go! [puts on sad face]

Dad: Alright, let me go break a five at the bar. [walks off]

Kid: [giddy with anticipation, or triumph of manipulation, I can't tell which]

Dad: [returns with coin, inserts coin]

The music starts up; it's a sixties rock-n-roll song, played through tinny speakers. The Beatles, maybe. The vehicle lurches...

Kid: [let's out a piercing scream] I HAAAAAAAAAATE IIIIITTTTT!!!!

Nora: [begins to cry]

Other baby: [starts crying]

Kid: [at the top of his voice] Get me off! Get me off! GET ME OFF!!!

Dad: [after a deliberate second-long hesitation, picks kid out of vehicle] Okay, here ya go.

At this point another enterprising little girl ran up and climbed in to use up the rest of someone else's coin. The whole time she was in the vehicle, she looked so incredibly bored that I had to wonder what sort of interest these vehicles hold over small children.

I finish my wine, pay my bill, and prepare to leave. As I'm going, the original kid runs over and climbs back into the vehicle.

Kid: Daaaaaaaad!!!

I couldn't help but think that I was looking into my own future. It strikes me that, as a parent, one is stricken with the paradox of both A) wanting your child to grow up to be able to do more things and satisfy your curiosity of what they will be like as an adult, and B) wishing your child would remain in the same more or less manageable state they are in right now.