Where there's a Willesden there's a way

Monday, October 13, 2003


I made the horrible mistake of going into an "amusement arcade" on Saturday. I don't gamble, but my reasons for going in were pretty innocent- brother was playing poker, and he needed £10 worth of 10ps. I thought it would be so easy, and walked in past the burly looking bouncer and straight up to the change machine. Then I saw them.

A man and a woman, probably in their fifties, although they may have been younger. They both had a hungry look in their eyes that couldn't help but scare me. Like drinkers looking for a toilet, they were jiggling about on the spot as I put in only my second pound coin, which passed straight through. As I put in a third, the man said to me "Can you hurry up please. I need some change." There was a real note of desperation in his voice, and I just scooped up my money and backed away.

Later I came up to it again and managed to change a few more coins before the attendant said those magic loaded words, "Can I help you." I felt I should be doing something, so put two coins into a fruit machine. It spun, twice, and then went back to anonymous, feed me mode. I noticed it had a button marked "Auto play". If you so wished, you could just feed your money without another thought.

As I came up to the machine a third time the countdown screen said "00.50". It had taken the man's pound coin when it didn't even have enough change. The man looked edgy and sad, and before I said a word he said, "It ate my money."

And yet nothing of the rest of his money that had fallen into the other machines, never to be seen again. This place was just bleeding him dry, convincing him that he'd get his money back, sooner or later, just keep playing.

I got out of there as fast as I politely could. I had £4.70 for Brother to play with.


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