Every day, I drink my coffee at work out of the same mug. It's not fancy; just a plain white mug with teal writing that says, "COIN CASTLE â€“ SEASIDE HEIGHTS, NJ" and a line-art drawing of some kids playing skee ball.
The reason this is significant is because I recently realized that this mug has just turned 20 years old. I keep it as a daily reminder that there are, in fact, no shortcuts in life.
At the end of the summer of 1992, my future college roommate and high school partner in crime and I took a trip to the Jersey Shore, one final hurrah before entering our freshman year. Bryan and I did the stuff that 18-year-olds do at the beach; gawk at girls, wander around the boardwalk ... and gamble.
Of course, we didn't have the opportunity to gamble at a real casino, but we did stumble across an arcade called Coin Castle somewhere on the boardwalk. They had video poker, slot machines and skee balls games that dispensed tickets one could redeem for fabulous prizes.
Behind the counter, we saw TVs, VCRs, lava lamps and other luxury items that we immediately imagined winning and stocking our dorm with. We would have the most pimpin' early '90s dorm room at Thurston Hall at George Washington University. We set down our French fries and got to work.
Bryan and I won all weekend. Hitting jackpots left and right, high fiving with every full house in video poker, we probably spent $200 of money that we had saved up from our menial summer job, literally digging ditches at Bryan's parents' house. At the end of the weekend, we brought an overflowing bucket full of tickets to the counter.
"We'll take the TV, VCR and pool table," we probably said in unison, while a bemused employee pulled out a calculator.
"You can have two mugs, some spider rings and a super ball," he replied.
We were crestfallen, swept up in the excitement of a get-rich quick scheme. Our thousands of tickets were worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $5.
But I took my mug to college, and when I learned how to drink coffee, it became my go-to receptacle. It went with me to my first and second jobs, then followed me to OnMilwaukee.com, where it sits at my desk today.
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