In which we visit Marty's Playland.
On March 30, 2008, the Ocean City Boardwalk was ablaze: specifically, the Dough Roller, next to one of our favorite points, Marty's Playland. We had not been able to gather much information about the extent of the damage, and so with some trepidation, we approached the restored arcade on Day Three. Well, actually, JoeyAndyDad and I scoped it out on the evening of Day Two, while the little ones slept. We wanted to check out the SkeeBall and the ten-cent cranes and be prepared. For those of you similarly worried, it looks like Marty's lost a SkeeBall or two, but the others are up, running, and looking lovely. The cranes have been moved again, it looks like the floor had some damage that is still being repaired, but the are there and working, too.
So we started our Marty's adventure, and the boys right away discovered a new horse-riding game. Its kind of a combo of a ride and a game. We had to help, but they really liked it.
Then we made our way to the SkeeBall, and worked on bowling. Joey got good enough to win tickets- he even bowled a 150! Joey really liked playing. Andy was more interested in games that made more beeps and had more flashy lights. He was pretty good at one that raced little cars on a track, and he was not too bad at iguana game.
My favorite- and my mom's- is, of course, the ten-cent cranes. We don't have pics this year of the cranes. See, one of the things to be won this year were those little plastic crystal-looking animals, and one was a blue elephant. Joey had one earlier in the year as a prize, and of course it broke, and seeing one in the machine was very exciting. So he and Grandma went to work to try to "win" it.
Now, folks, the ten-cent cranes are antiques. As antiques, they often have trouble. Sometimes, you put your dime in, and they don't work just right. It's just part of playing the cranes.
But for Joey, when he puts his dime in, he expects the crane to work. Perfectly. So he was getting a little frustrated that the crane wasn't picking up the elephant like he thought it ought to. He'd get close, and move it around, and even grab stuff (he got lots of little toys!), but it just didn't get that elephant.
And then it happened.
He put the dime in, and the crane got stuck. It wouldn't go at all, because it got hung up on itself. Grandma called for help from the maintenance folks (who naturally hang out around the antique games), but it was too late. The noise of the arcade. The frustration with the machine. The lights, the people, the elephant not being caught. He started to scream, and I turned from what I was doing- which was mostly organizing tickets that the guys had won- and reached out to hug him to calm him, but I reached too late. I missed him as he whipped around a corner of the machines. Two steps behind, I whipped around the corner, too.
Marty's is something of a labyrinth of arcade games of all kinds. It is kind of two big rooms, but divided by games and cases into a maze of smaller areas. Fabulous if you like the crunch of an arcade. Pure hell if your child has just disappeared in teh crowd, despite wearing a bright orange shirt and screaming his head off.
Gone. He was gone.
I followed what I thought was the most obvious path, around the games back to where Grandma was standing, unaware that I did not have him. The sheer panic on my face must have spoken a thousand screams. We began scouring the arcade. I ran quickly through the little maze of rooms, familiar to me from childhood for the most part (and to my mom from her childhood), but there was no sign of him. He was gone. Maybe he had gone to look for Daddy?
But no, here was Daddy with Andy in hand. Seeing us panic, not knowing what happened, JoeyAndyDad had instinctively (and intelligently) grabbed Andy's hand, so we only had one to look for. Grandma and I headed to the Skeeball. Maybe he had gone there... or continued right out the door, maybe trying to get to the car? Or to his beloved and comforting beach? Was he lost in the crowds on the boardwalk? Was he lost in the arcade? Either possibility would be terrifying for him. (I was reminded later of the possibility of someone taking him. Fortunately, my brain didn't explode.)
No Joey at the Skeeball. No Joey to be seen anywhere outside. Grandma took up station at the doors, to watch for him, and I think JoeyAndyDad stayed at the Skeeball with Andy to watch for him, and I plunged back into the dark hub-bub of the arcade.
Retrace the steps. Go back to the cranes. I headed back to the back of the arcade, where the cranes are set up next to teh prize/ticket redemption counter. And...
There he was, right next to the crane!
He was pretty upset. A very nice lady saw me, and told me she was about to get someone to announce over the loudspeaker that there was a lost child (she had tried to talk to Joey to calm him down, but discovered that was not an easy task- when upset, Joey often speaks what would be perceived by others to be nonsense). I hugged my little guy tight and got him out of there.
Dad took the guys for another round of rides, but Joey was perseverating on the blue elephant, so Grandma and I feverishly plugged dimes into machines until we got one. Actually, I ended up with two, but that's a good thing, as these little toys break easily.
We came back the next day- our last morning at Ocean City- to play the air hockey. The boys were very into it. I think when Joey ran, that's where he went- it is a very dark corner of the arcade, so that the lights of the hockey tables show up. Until very recently, the idea of Joey running towards dark would be ridiculous, but with the glow of the lights, the corner may have seemed a good idea to him. Or a blind run into the dark. Either way, it is the one corner of the arcade where I probably would not have been able to spot him.
The boys thought the air hockey was great fun. Everybody was much calmer. Joey clutched his beloved blue elephant for the rest of the trip.
I think I'll put the other one on the Christmas Tree for good luck.