The Lobster Zone


Over the weekend, I finally had the pleasure—wait, not pleasure. Awakening? No. Excitement? Not exactly. Sadness? Borderline. Well, let’s just go with “opportunity,” and start over. Here we go.

Over the weekend, I finally had the opportunity to play a little game you might have heard of, called The Lobster Zone. Picture one of those bear-claw machines where, for a couple of quarters, you try and hoist a plush toy. Now, imagine that bear claw machine with a claw that looks like a lobster, and, instead of fake Beanie Babies it’s chockablock with live lobsters and salt water. For $2, players try to nab a crustacean with the claw. To the victor goes the spoils–you win it, you eat it.

I wrote about The Lobster Zone some time ago for Vegas Seven magazine. I spoke with restaurant managers who watched people spend in the hundreds of dollars before winning a lobster, which is then cooked and served for no additional charge (others requested to take the lobster home, alive, but were denied). But until my recent visit to Harpoon Willie’s in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, I hadn’t played one. And now that the curiosity is satisfied, I likely never will again.

We played $12. Neil played four times, I played two. The first time he played, he almost had one of ’em. He positioned the lobster claw as perfectly as a mama lobster would to her baby, hoisting, hoisting, hoisting….and then the little bugger rassled its way out.

I played next. By now, it seemed the lobsters had positioned themselves more defensively. They lined the perimeter, just out of reach of the claw. I slowly moved it around the roost, positioning it carefully, and then slowly letting it drop into the salt water. It was no better than a tickle stick, sending a lobster skittering, and leaving me hungry.

My next attempt was even less effective.

Then, Neil was up. I watched the inside of the tank closely this time, as he hooked a claw, part of a thorax and the poor lobster’s mouth. If the lobster’s eyes could get any wider, they would have. As it dropped out of the claw, it raised its own claw and flashed its alien-like teeth. And with that, I switched sides. I went from cheering for Neil to cheering for the lobster. Kitschy and weird, this game really was kind of sick.

I know lobsters are boiled alive and tortured until placed on our plates. But I don’t really like lobster all that much. And I certainly don’t need to stage my own Guantanamo Bay scenario before I eat my dinner.


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