On the surface, it looks like a collection of childish whims and cheap toys all for the affordable price of a couple of coins. At its heart it is ruthless and deadly serious business. Deadly enough in fact that the name of our contact for this article has been changed in order to protect the man who finally broke his silence.
We spoke to Terrence a low level filler-ooney. (A filler-ooney is one of the people who trots around town filling the machines for their organized crime syndicate.) WWN met with Terrence at the Burger de Burgaure for an interview and some tasty fried chicken.
“It ain’t no glamour gig, but I keep food on the table and coins in my pocket” Terrence proclaims. “I got started when those little figures of people in your neighborhood were hot. At the time, I was only thirteen. I had to drop out of school just to be able to have enough time to fill all the machines. It was a gold mine back then.”
Since that time, decline in sales, turf wars and paid hits on some of the more prominent filler-ooneys have made it a dangerous job. Terrence doesn’t seem to worry about his safety much it seems.
“Yeah, it happens. You got your hands full of bouncy balls and mini puzzle cubes, and then POP! POP! POP! someone is throwing a few ounces of lead in your general direction.” Terrence giggles, “I’d quit if I could, but you get addicted to the money and lifestyle pretty quick. Do you know what it’s like to be able to splash your kids kindergarten class with thousands of bouncy balls? It’s magic baby, magic”
It isn’t all bouncy balls and SpongeBob figurines that are clearly unlicensed knockoffs. Those that take up the circular key live by a strict code.
“Vendi, vidi, vici.” Terrence explains as he shows his prominent arm tattoo, “It means, I came, I dispensed, I conquered. Latin I think. Words you gotta live. You can’t fake it. It has to be in your blood. The wannabes fall off real quick like.”
Terrence glanced at an incoming text, apologized abruptly and cut the interview short suddenly. “New Pokemon and Mario knock-offs from China just hit the warehouse. Gotta get ’em out!. Vendi, Vidi Vici!” With a blink of an eye, Terrence and his custom 1992 Turbo Geo Metro were off into the night.