Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Toys R Not Us

“Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure.”

George. E. Woodberry 

On our godson James’ fifth birthday we sent him a Transformer toy, which had been his secret birthday wish. I had to scour the city’s toy stores to find Optimus Prime, which I believed to be the gold standard in transformers, being the leader of the Autobots, which are the good robots. However, there seemed to have been a run on this toy in New York City because store after store I left empty handed. Finally, when I could take no more disappointment or thronging crowds, I bought Bumblebee, the second most famous transformer (and the only other one I knew). As I prepared to leave the store, partly dejected, and partly elated because this was the last crowded store I would have to visit, out of the farthest corner of my eye, all the way across the store I saw it. It was Optimus Prime and seemingly the last one in this store and quite possibly in the city of New York, sitting on a shelf on which he did not belong. It was fate. I walked over, grabbed it and ran to the cashier before any one of the million screaming kids noticed my precious find. Little did I know that this would be the beginning of a journey filled with great frustration, not just for five year old James, but also for his father, Roger, and his godfather.

One day after we shipped the toy, we got a thank you call from an elated James. Exactly 24 hours after that I got a distress call from his mother. She told me that the boy and now his father had driven themselves to distraction trying to transform the simple little toy from the current shape to the semi truck that it is supposed to become. Of course, at first I laughed, but when she told me that she had just sent James’s dad off to have a shower to cool off, after he had been trying to transform the toy rather unsuccessfully for over an hour, I knew she was quite serious. I laughed again, but this time because I knew that I would need precisely ten minutes with Optimus to accomplish the task, even if Dad was not able to make any headway. Luckily for little James, the wait for the final transformation would not be a long one, as we were due to visit them the following week. At this point Roger, now cooled off, got on the phone to hear me laugh and taunt him by telling him how I would only need a mere few minutes to ‘not disappoint’ his son. Roger also laughed, saying I had no idea how complicated this toy was. He proceeded to bet me $100 that I would not be able to complete the simple transformation in forty-five minutes, leave alone the ten that I felt I needed. Mano-a-machine - we had a bet.

Oh how I laughed silently on the plane ride in, as I thought about my easy $100. I almost started to feel bad about taking money from James’ father, who had just resigned from his job a few months earlier and remained unemployed. Almost. Roger and James picked us up at the airport and of course the first thing we discussed was how I was about to take some money from our host. He seemed pretty confident that I was going to be paying him. All this while poor little James was rapidly losing interest in his un-transformable birthday present, which seemed to have been completely taken over by Dad and his Uncle Nik’s obsession. When we reached the house, I greeted mom and godson number two and went straight to the task at hand. I sat down at the kitchen table, Optimus Prime in hand, and decided to take a stab before lunch. I was supremely confident that I would finish much before the waffles came off the waffle iron, perhaps even before the batter had been fully spread. This was it, the moment when all those years my mother said I wasted by not reading a book and playing with various action figures instead, was going to come to fruition. This is the day I had been training for.
For the first five minutes it was just Optimus Prime and me, in that kitchen, in that house and in all of California. We stared hard into each other’s eyes and knew that there would be only ONE left standing. I twisted, I turned, I bent and I clicked and felt I was making rapid progress, much to Roger’s dismay, and James’s glee. However, Roger continued to hold fast that I would not be able to complete the task, no matter the extent of my early progress. I had solved the Rubik's cube when I was barely ten, and three years before that I had fixed a digital clock on my parents’ fridge in Hong Kong after my Dad, the handyman and three electricians had failed. I was not about to let some plastic Hasbro-been get the better of me. I swear it felt like just fifteen minutes had transpired when Roger sounded the bell, but my forty-five minutes were up and Optimus Prime was no closer to looking like a semi-truck than he was when I started. I stared in disbelief, even as Roger said, “I told you it was impossible” and our young godson looked like he now had not one, but two inept male role models in his life. Both defeated by none other than Optimus Prime, who was not even a Decepticon, the evil robots.
 
I do not exaggerate when I say that this thing was a beast. I tried the entire four days that we were in California, setting aside at least an hour each day to transform my new nemesis. I came really, really close. So close that only one piece would not fit, but the point is that I was unable to complete transforming a toy that said in bright, bold letters on the box for “For Age: 4 yrs +”. As for the instructions, they were about as helpful as a blind person giving directions. I want to know who Hasbro has hired to create these new toy Transformers, I have a feeling they are either nuclear physicists of rocket scientists. I am a pretty intelligent guy, as is Roger and we are both toy obsessed and mechanically minded, but neither of us could transform this little plastic toy robot, so what chance will little five year olds have I wonder? I guess all that is left to say is that the cheque is in the mail.

No comments:

Post a Comment