When I was 15 years old I used to work on weekends as a glass washer at a country club. One night after all the bars were closed and only the landlord’s 30 year-old son Eric and I were left in the place, I noticed he was having a great deal of luck on the slot machine in the public bar. As I walked towards him to tell him I was finished and he could lock up, he shuffled round slightly to block my view of the machine, so I darted round to the opposite side to see what he was trying to hide. He gave up and stepped back, showing me he had broken the glass on the front of the machine. He was “winning” because he was holding the reels in a winning combination with his fingers, and the machine was being tricked into paying out.
It was a tough situation for me and I really didn’t know what to do. Nobody would believe me over the landlord’s son even if I wanted to turn him in, but he quickly made the decision much easier. “You say a f***ing word and you’ll lose your job and your teeth”, he said with a piercing stare. Since I had seen him knock down and drag out many boisterous rugby players from the club, I was inclined towards a cooperative approach. “How can I help?” I said with a wide smile. He smiled back and patted me gently on the cheek three times mafia style as if to say, “Wise decision”.
“I can only hold three reels and press the button on my own”, he said. “If you press the button for me I can hold all four.” I had no choice. He held all four reels with his fingers and told me to press the button. After I did so he let the reels slip round until the ‘three bars’ jackpot symbols were all lined up, then he held them in place. There were four metallic clicks, then a pause, then lights started flashing and bells started ringing and coins started flying out into the tray underneath. We kept doing that until the machine was making loud clunking noises but there were no more coins left inside for it to spit out. We had about 150 pounds. Or should I say, Eric had 150 pounds. I wanted no part of it. I told him I had no bank account or anything and I would never be able to explain the money to my parents so he’d better keep it. He believed me because he wanted to, but insisted I go with him to a night club for a drink.
In the night club, after Eric had bribed a friendly doorman to let me in underage and underdressed, I learned a valuable lesson. After a few drinks I saw a pretty girl at the bar and, with plenty of encouragement from Eric, I went up and offered to buy her a drink. Keep in mind I was 15 years old, about 60 kilos, dripping wet and dressed for extreme glass washing, and she was about 25, gorgeous and dressed to kill. To my surprise she accepted and came with me to sit at our table. Eric left us alone and went to dance with his prospect. He had given me ten pounds pocket money and I blew the lot on this girl, convinced she thought I was youthful-looking high-roller rather than a spotty 15 year-old idiot. After three or four drinks she excused herself to go to the ladies’ room. It was approaching closing time and I was hoping she had her own place, slightly nervous I must admit, considering the fact that my romantic involvement with women had thus far been confined to my imagination. After the music had stopped and the lights had come on, Eric came back to the table and asked me what I was doing. I told him I was waiting for my girl to come back. He laughed and slapped me hard round the head. “I saw her leave half an hour ago you moron”, he said.
I think Eric set the whole thing up to make sure I would never tell this story. Well up yours Eric. It’s 35 years later, you’re either retired or dead so I’m not scared of you anymore, and I’ve actually kissed a real girl now so I’m not embarrassed any more. What was the lesson? Don’t be an idiot.