Contents of my head as I tried to help Graham change his Transformer action figure (last untested Christmas toy) from a humanoid robot (Bumblebee) back into a car (a car that, ironically, looks a whole lot like *my* car):
“Okay, so it opened up with the feet stuck together, so it should close back up the same way. I can’t believe how hard those feet/wheels were to get apart in the first place. Graham was afraid to push or pull anything that hard for fear of breaking it, and technically he’s right. It is only plastic. And what’s with this extra blue piece that fell off? Where’s it go? Oh well, I’ll set it aside and see if it fits on at the end.”
“So, the feet came back together for the front end, but every time I try folding the back end in, his head seems to be in the way. Head won’t fit up his ass, …now there’s a metaphor for why the Chinese builders of these toys are beating America at our own game. They’re taking advantage of our swollen heads and big wallets, humbly churning out millions of these quickly obsolete toys and products that we’ve convinced ourselves it’s our birthright to own (and then quickly discard out of boredom, or because we break them).”
“Okay, does the chest open up and the head fold into there? How about if I spin the head around halfway, like Linda “The Exorcist” Blair? (And how great is it that Satan decided to take up residence in a girl named Reagan, years before we elected him president… was it a warning we refused to heed?) No, the torso doesn’t open up. Does the head fit between the guy’s calves? No, not enough room. Plus, that would turn the compact car into a stubby little Smartcar, which doesn’t work (for the toy, not the real car, which probably does work… Smartcars are actually not so ridiculous, …and I wonder if their featured role on the Christmas episode of the CBS comedy “Worst Week” will boost their sales figures in 2009?).”
“So where’s the friggin head go! I can’t believe this is taking so long. What am I, an idiot? It’s a child’s toy! If I can’t do this, how’s a six-year-old gonna do it? Who knows, maybe a six-year-old selectively has plenty of patience when it comes to important stuff, like his toys. Nevertheless, I will NOT be defeated by a toy, …OR by the Chinese engineer that designed it!”
“Okay, Mark. Calm down. When in doubt, read the directions. (And not before you’re in doubt… that’s part of the Mannish Manifesto of Self Reliance.) So, let’s look here. No words, just eight small drawings with arrows. Typical. Except they only show how to turn the car into the robot, not the other way around! Relax, you can reverse the directions. Start with #8. Trouble is, there’s no “bottom” view, only a side view. Did they actually think these directions would help?”
“Aw, f¥¿€ !!! Who could do this? I need some coffee.”
Long story short, I finally got Bumblebee’s head to tuck between the back of his thighs, in one of those “didn’t I try this twice already?” kind of puzzling moments. Then the rest of the seams and pieces came together, with just the right balance of firm pressure and gentle patience. I still wonder: how many six-year-olds can do this? And I never did figure out where the extra blue piece went.
So twenty minutes after I started, long after Graham had left the room — and with Neil Young’s odd but memorable song “Transformer Man” having played in the back of my mind the whole time — I got it done. Now we’ll see if he ever plays with the damned thing again, and whether I can repeat this minor miracle of transformation.