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Mission City Voices: Money Machine

It was the middle of the summer in 1989.  My children and I finally decided how we were going to spend one of our Saturdays.  We came up with a plan to go to the Santa Clara County Fair. There was a great list of things there to keep us busy—the best part was that activities were usually free.  The afternoon started out as planned.  We had fun in the morning but started to get hungry around noon.  It was at this time that I realized I didn’t have my wallet.  It was going to be a shame to have to leave early.  We were on our way back to our car to go home when I silently asked God for a little help from this predicament.  At that moment, I raised my head and saw a small crowd of about twenty gathered around a Coca-Cola display.

We made our way over and I was now in the back of the crowd wondering what was happening.  I asked the guy next to me, “Hi, what’s going on?”  On the elevated stage was a man, the emcee who shouted out, “Has anyone not guessed?”  The guy next to me pointed to a digital display on the stage with six random digits on it.  The idea was to put the digits in the right sequence. “Has anyone not guessed?”  I heard the emcee repeat.  This time I raised my hand and was asked to shout out my guess.  I quickly gave him my guess, but it was too fast and I was asked to repeat it.  I tried my best to remember what I had shouted out.  I replied again, not knowing if I repeated my first answer.  The emcee on stage punched my response in his computer, my response was flashed on the digital screen.  The word, ”Correct!” followed.  The small crowd began to build up with excitement and they started clapping loudly.  He waved for me to come on stage.  My children, while becoming excited as to what was happening to us, followed me to the front of the stage.  They stood anxiously in front, as they looked excitingly up at their Dad.  I was led onto the stage and as I looked down at my kids, I noticed the crowd was getting larger as the man kept shouting, “We have a winner!”  Since there was so much Coke on display, I thought I had won a case of Coke.  I was happy with that, but I asked,  “What have I won?”  “You get to go into the money machine!” was his reply.

I had no idea what that was, but then he pointed to a curtain at the back of the stage. Soon his assistant rolled out the money machine.  The crowd had almost tripled to over a hundred spectators.  The machine stood eight feet tall and was no more than four feet wide on the sides. It was filled with dollar bills, almost six inches deep.  From the stage, I looked down at my kids and they were becoming more excited from the crowd’s reaction.  I was told that there was a fan underneath the floor of the money machine.  When the fan started up, the breeze would slowly start to swirl the money upwards. The rules were simple—I would have thirty seconds to grab as much money as possible and put them in a provided money belt.  I was not to touch the glass or reach below my knees.  I could however kick the money to help get it to move.  I then asked, “What was the average take.”  He told me, “Around twenty-three dollars, the lowest was seventeen and the highest was twenty-nine.”  I would be happy with twenty dollars for lunch.  Unsure of the next minute, I stepped into the machine and patiently waited for it to start.  As I heard the fan start up, I waved at my kids…


Thirty seconds goes by really fast and as the money started to swirl upwards, I grabbed frantically at the dollar bills that rushed by.  I grabbed one, two, three dollars and quickly deposited them in the money belt.  I heard the emcee yell out the elapsed time, “Five seconds! Ten seconds!”  Then I remembered that I could kick the money.  Swiftly, I swept out at the money with my foot and I “raked” the money into a small pile in front of me.  I heard the warning, “Fifteen seconds! Twenty seconds!”  I now had a small pile in front of me and only a few dollars in my pouch. I realized it’s now or never.  I slid my foot sideways under the pile then flipped my foot upwards in front of me.  There it arose, slowly rising upward, a mass of dollar bills stuck together in front of my chest.  With my hands, I clapped them together and trapped a large cache of bills and deposited them in my money belt.  I heard the final countdown, “Twenty-five seconds!”  I then stopped reaching for more money and raised my hands.  The wallet around my waist was full and there was no more room. Then I heard his final response, “Thirty seconds!  Stop!”

That was it, the door opened and I slowly walked out. The crowd went crazy and my kids were excited and were jumping up and down.  The emcee came over, took the belt from me and slowly started counting out the money.  I reminded myself that all I wanted was enough money for lunch for me and my three kids.  He soon finished counting and yelled, “One hundred and forty-nine dollars!”  What a blessed surprise and a great lunch.  Once again, he was looking out for me and answered my prayers, “Lord, thanks for being there again!”

Mission City Voices

Do you have a personal essay that you’d like to submit for consideration? Email subject line: Mission City Voices.



1 Comment
  1. Michele 1 year ago

    “Ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be full.”

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