FUNPASS FROM BOREDOM: 9-YEAR-OLD CAINE’S ARCADE

FUNPASS FROM BOREDOM: 9-YEAR-OLD CAINE’S ARCADE

Anyone who has kids knows how tricky it can be to have your 9-year-old tag along while you catch up on work at the office. Even if you are proactive and give them something to work on while you attend to your
business, quite often it can be a frustrating experience for both you and your kid.

That’s what I think is so remarkable about this young man named Caine Monroy. Here’s a little guy who faced the prospect of not just one day at his dad’s auto parts store—he was looking at spending his entire summer break stuck in a decaying storefront with nothing but his imagination to keep him out of his dad’s hair day after dreary day.

Caine is the subject of an 11-minute internet video called Caine’s Arcade. The video has been viewed more than 8 million times, and it has launched both Caine and the man who made the film from obscurity to fame and fortune.The man who made the film, Nirvan Mullick, was a struggling filmmaker in need of a door handle for his aging Toyota. He stepped inside the sleepy parts store hoping to find what he needed, and while waiting for his order to be filled, he struck up a conversation with young Caine.

By the time Mullick showed up, the summer was nearly gone. Caine’s idle hours had been put to industrious use, taking over a portion of the sales floor with a crude array of hand-constructed arcade games that would have made Spanky, Alfalfa, and the rest of the Little Rascals grin with approval. There was a basketball hoop, a soccer-themed game with army men placed as defenders, other pitchand-toss games of skill, and a claw machine that used a string of yarn with a bent hook on the end of it in place of a claw. Everything was constructed from cardboard boxes. Behind the games was a wall festooned with prizes to be won; most of these had formerly seen duty as toys in Caine’s own closet.

Caine’s arcade sparkled with ingenuity in every litle detail. One of the few things that Caine had actually bought with money was a teal-blue t-shirt imprinted with iron-on letters spelling out “Caine’s Arcade” on the back, and “STAFF” across the left front breast, which Caine daily wore with pride while waiting for customers to show up.

As the weeks wore on, Caine’s faith in his arcade never flagged despite the absence of customers. The old parts store had very little foot traffic due to its unfavorable location, and Caine’s dad was keeping it afloat by means of internet sales.

As the hours passed, Caine would tinker with improvements to his little operation, never doubting that some day his business would attract paying customers.

When Mullick showed up, Caine was ready to do business. “How much does it cost to play?” Mullick wanted to know. “One dollar gets you four plays,” he said. “Or for 2 dollars you can get a Fun Pass, good for a month or 500 plays.” Mullick opted for the fun pass.

With help from Caine’s dad, Mullick created his video that highlights Caine’s accomplishment as well as a surprise event which fulfills Caine’s wildest dreams of success. What makes it compelling is the unbridled optimism displayed by the young entrepreneur as well as the naïve sophistication of Caine’s thought process. The arcade machines feature many elaborate details which replicate the complex systems of the real games with creative, low-tech solutions. The highlight of the video for me is to hear Caine explain in his own words how he verifies the authenticity of a previously purchased Fun Pass using calculators he has taped to the side of every machine in the arcade. It’s a delightful moment that is simultaneously brilliant and absurd. The original video can be viewed at cainesarcade.com.

Not many 9-year-olds know what to do with themselves if they face more than 5 minutes of idle time without the aid of a video game. Surely self-sufficiency and creativity can be taught to a point, but I believe people like Caine are rare individuals who are born with a particular skill set. It’s society’s role to recognize exceptionalism and nurture it. Kudos to Nirvan Mullick for sharing this exceptional kid with the rest of us!

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