You don’t know what this is, do yeh?
There’s a tiny shop at the exit to Pirates of the Caribbean called Pieces of Eight, which has served your every pirate-y need since long before the POTC concept was translated into three blockbuster feature films (one-and-a-half of them critically acclaimed) and even before the WaltDisCo got the bright idea of putting impulse buys at the end of every. popular. ride. in. the. Park. If you need a plastic sword, a handful of plastic jewels or to have your fortune read by Fortune Red, Pieces of Eight stands ready to serve, me hearties.
Until recently, Pieces of Eight was home to one of those carny machines that would print any group of 30-some letters on a souvenir coin. You’d drop your four bits, swing a “Metropolis”-like clock hand to the desired letter and pull a handle — and deep within the machine you’d feel and hear the satisfying, metallic thunk sound of the letter being pressed into the coin. (I’m not describing this very well. Come back, Paul Lukas! Your country needs you.) When you finished, you’d pull a handle and out would come your custom-stamped coin, which looked for all the world like a genuine doubloon. (Heh. A doubloon isn’t the same thing as a real de a ocho, though never mind.)
As satisfying as the printing process was, it was an even greater pleasure to hold the finished product in the palm of your hand. Other such carny machines issued coins of flyweight aluminum, but Disney gave you a nice, heavy piece of nickel alloy that actually felt like it had some value. You could melt it down for grapeshot. You could spend a lifetime attempting to transform it into gold. Or you could use it as a decorative anchor for your keychain, as I’ve done.
I’d love to tell you to run down there and get your own customized filthy lucre, but the machine is gone, and has been for several years. There are rumors of occasional re-appearances (dropped off by the Flying Dutchman?), though when I query a Cast Member about its absence they either tell me that it’s out for repairs (quite possible; it’s a sensitive piece of machinery) or they don’t know what the bloody hell I’m talking about. One strident teenaged girl insisted that the machine had never existed at all — at which point I showed her my keychain.
“Go soak yer head in the salmagundi, ye underpaid powder monkey!” I might have bellowed at her, if the talk-like-a-pirate thing weren’t so played out. “Yer pwned!”
And so, for the first and last time, I will address the Disney decision-makers who will never, ever lay eyes on this bl-g: Please bring back the coin-stamping machine formerly located at Pieces of Eight. (And if it’s there now, please keep it there.) Oh, I’m sure that you have your reasons for having removed the machine, reasons that seem valid to you: I imagine that it’s fairly expensive to maintain and stock the machine, and considering how skittish you’ve become about stitching nicknames on souvenir hats, I’m sure that you don’t want today’s teenage gangsta goths imprinting your souvenirs with four-letter words, gang slogans and Fall Out Boy lyrics.
Here’s the thing, though: I don’t remotely care about any of that. Yours is a billion-dollar concern and you can afford to eat a few thousand bucks a year. If you have the wherewithal to make three Pirates of the Craibbean movies, you can build a second doubloon-stamping machine to sit in for the broken one. And if you’re worried about teenaged kids putting blue words on their coins, get this: The coin on my keychain has bore a prodigious number of filthy words for nearly twenty years now, and as near as I can tell, it has created no great rift in the public decency. It’s a pirate coin; what do you want? Pirates say naughty words, ye cowardly cacklefruits. An’ no sea rat e’er palmed a coin that weren’t already dirty.