I took the kids to our local Friendly’s yesterday and saw something I’d never seen before. There was a woman at the “Claw” machine. You know, those games with all the stuffed toys in the bottom of the cage and you have to position a steel claw to drop down and grab one? Well, this lady, easily in her early 70’s had a fistful of dollar bills and just kept playing the game. We were there for over an hour and watched her the entire time. At one point she ran out of singles, so she went to the register, broke a fifty dollar bill and kept playing the machine. By the time she finished, she had a large shopping bag (one of those Friendly’s bags customers use to carry the sheet cakes out) filled with stuffed animals.

We finally asked our waitress who told us she comes in EVERY DAY, spends a hundred dollars at a clip at the machine, then donates all the toys she wins to the local hospital pediatric ward.

The writer in me isn’t satisfied with this information. I need more. Why does she do this? My latest theory is that she’s independently wealthy, but lonely. Her family ignores her, so she’s spending their inheritance in the most wasteful way she can without heading to Atlantic City in the hopes there will be nothing left when she dies. Mind you, that’s a theory. (And I did use it to threaten my kids into promising to take care of me in my old age, so it worked temporarily.) But I need to know the real story here. Why does she do it? Where does she get the money? Wouldn’t it be easier to go to Toys R Us (two blocks away) and just buy a bunch of stuffed animals for the hospital?

I have a feeling I’ll be taking a ride to Friendly’s one afternoon in the near future. Just me and an old lady at the Claw machine, drinking coffee and talking.