If you're like me (which you must be, because I'm the only one who reads this) then you often think: hey, what could be worse than being one of those lobsters in a tank at a restaurant, having slobbering seafood addicts hover over and choose your fate like fatted kings of old? Well, how about having those same slobbering carnivores pay money for the chance to hook your doomed crustacean ass out of a crane game, as if you were some wretched stuffed Pokemon toy coveted by spoiled children from Long Island, their faces smudged with an ice-cream waffle, at the Jersey Shore?
Indeed, that is the fate of many lobsters these days, thanks to this new trend of seafood-based crane games that now grace some of the classier restaurants of the world. I walked into Remy's on Hilton Head today to find the first one of these Kafka-esque amusements I've ever seen, and, sure enough, there were some inebriated young fellas pumping their caddying tips (I assume) into it trying to pull home dinner. Neither of them succeeded, much to the lobsters' delight, though if you're a lobster in a crane game in a seafood restaurant, you probably listen to a lot of Dashboard Confessional and think about which part of you is soft enough to slice open without taking off your rubber bands.
The bartender told me there's like three more of these machines on the island already, and I plan to investigate this shortly. To recap: we have four games where you can win a live creature to devour with your mouth, yet no pinball or Time Crisis. Not even a tired old House of the Dead machine.
I googled it and there's a Florida (figures)-based company called "Lobster Zone" that makes these things. They're quite exuberantly excited about their growth possibilities in the marketplace. The name "Lobster Zone" is pretty damned misleading, as it sounds like it would be a place of joy and happiness for lobsters, where they can go play lobster skee-ball, splash around in the underwater ball pit and make out with their crawfish girlfriends under the boardwalk so their parents will never find out about their forbidden love. It'd be like calling a chicken-fighting ring "Clucky Cheese."
Here's the Lobster Zone's enthusiastic defense of their industry, from their Web site (coloring and capitalization is theirs):
The Lobster Zone product is extremely appealing to a broad target audience in a multitude of settings, and has the potential to be adapted to feature other high priced “rewards”. The psychological attraction to gaming appeals to a variety of interests including competition, sport, challenge, uniqueness of the game, and the “pot at the end of the rainbow”. Our society has become increasingly focused on impulse buying and immediate gratification. Today, vending machines meet those needs by selling virtually every product available in a store environment. Clothing, cameras, phones, food, hygienic products, fishing bait, pizzas, you name it, and you can find it in a vending machine in most parts of the world. The industry is booming and industry experts see a sustained growth rate for the future. Annual sales figures for the vending machine industry world wide total over ONE TRILLION DOLLARS .
To summarize, lobsters have replaced candy bars and tabloid magazines as impulse purchases. At least Miley Cyrus will be happy. If she weren't a vegetarian.