What is the Claw Machine Doing with My Luck?

Claw Machine Arcade

You’ve probably heard of the phrase “your luck has run out.” Sounds like something a Saturday morning cartoon hero might say to her greatest nemesis just before securing victory.

But sometimes I wonder if there’s really something to that phrase. Could luck be a finite resource, like coal or petroleum or Magic: The Gathering trading cards?

I don’t have any real evidence for this claim other than those days when you’re lucky enough to wake up on time despite your alarm malfunctioning, yet unlucky enough to hit a huge traffic jam and end up late for work anyway. In those moments, it feels like you were only given one token of luck, and you spent it on the alarm clock.

All this is why I fear the claw machine at arcades.

Let me explain. I have tremendous luck with the claw machine at arcades. The one where you press a red button on the end of a joystick to make a four-pronged silver claw descend into a sea of plush toys. It’s that machine that you quietly curse when it drops the toy you so carefully plucked, almost as if it was on purpose.

I’ve won the claw game three times in my life, which I consider the equivalent of hurling a basketball from the opposite side of the court with my eyes closed while balanced on a unicycle and draining it. And I don’t consider this bragging because, like hurling a basketball with eyes closed while balanced on a unicycle and draining it, the claw machine has nothing to do with skill. It’s just sheer dumb luck.

(By the way, what is dumb luck? If there’s such a thing as dumb luck, does that mean there’s also such a thing as smart luck, or straight-Bs-but-tries-really-hard luck?)

Anyway, I wonder if I’m wasting all my luck, dumb or otherwise, on the claw machine. What if I never played the claw machine, never won that dalmatian with the fireman helmet or the mini Chicago Bulls basketball or the orca whale, and instead put that luck toward something that’s actually useful, like a lottery ticket?

And that’s maybe the worst part of luck. You can’t know when you’re using it, or how much you’re using, or whether or not it’s about to run out.

Back to that “your luck has run out” phrase. It’s usually followed by some misfortune directed at one person or another, like death or something. Which is funny, because I don’t think dying is unlucky. You wouldn’t have to be lucky to win the lottery if everybody won the lottery, right?

Then again, could luck just be an explanation for the unexplainable? I mean, if you’re unfortunate enough to find yourself in class on the day you didn’t do the reading, and then, out of the entire lecture hall of a hundred or so students, your professor chooses you to answer her question, how would you explain that.

Just bad luck, I guess.

Likewise, if you win the lottery, beating out all the thousands of other entrants whose numbers might be a digit or two away from yours, how can you explain that?

Must be good luck (or smart luck?).

So do I really even believe in this thing called luck? I guess not. It probably isn’t this intangible that we all use every day, and that can run out at any moment. It’s more likely that it’s just the word we use to describe the unlikely, or the nearly impossible. Really, luck is probably nothing more than a word, right?

Still, just to be safe, maybe I’ll stay away from the claw machines.


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