Nah, just kidding. This isn't an ode to a stupid little toy from some random dollar store. And do you know why? Because nobody loves those toys.
Yet they're completely freaking ubiquitous. They're everywhere. From rec centre vending machines to birthday party goodie bags, you can't go anywhere that parents typically go without a rubberized grabbing hand reaching out for you.
And unless the basic tenents of our capitalistic society change in a big hurry, these things clearly aren't going away. Supply and demand and all that. After all, these stupid little trinkets are the lifeblood of the dollar store economy and I've got my choice of six of those joints within a six kilometre radius of my house.
Six, you guys. Six.
So clearly someone is buying this crap by the pallet load.
But here's the thing. These toys? They suck. They're terrible. They have an average lifespan of about 20 minutes in my house and I'm sure it's not much different in yours. From the moment they're dropped on your table at your local chain restaurant (or, if you're really lucky, plucked from the magical treasure chest!) or pulled from your birthday party lootbag or ripped from those godforsakenly-difficult-to-open stupid plastic egg things, they're lucky to last as long as your average Zamfir panflute solo before they're tossed aside.
College students aren't opening up care packages from home and getting misty-eyed because mom remembered to pack Skippy, their beloved mini rubik's cube. Retirees aren't looking longingly at their now-grown child's old mini NFL helmet as they finally sort through the boxes in the attic as they prepare to downsize.
Yet these koosh balls and crap are backed by a mind-bogglingly wasteful supply chain. Think about it. Firstly, they're all made of some form of rubbery plastic stuff. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and assume that's petroleum based. So it's drilled and pumped and refined and coloured and whatever.
Then it's turned into whatever whacky shape the creative minds at UbiquiToy Co. can come up with.
Then it's packaged.
Then it's boxed.
Then it's trucked to some warehouse.
Then it's put on a freaking ship and sailed across the ocean.
Then it's put on a truck and trucked to another warehouse.
Then it's trucked to a store.
Then some schmuck buys it.
Then it's played with for all of 39 seconds.
Then it's thrown away.
Look, I'm not an idiot. I know I'm up against some grand global conspiracy of oil companies and logistics companies and toy companies here. You can't fight Big Dollar Store. I know that.
But maybe, just maybe, we can tip the scales a bit. Maybe next time you host a birthday party you stick to candies and crayons in the loot bags. Maybe next time you go to a restaurant you quietly ask the server not to bring by the magic tickle trunk of terrible toys ($20 says your kid won't even notice). Maybe you stick some chewing gum in the vending machines at the rec centre* - your fellow hockey parents will appreciate it even if the kids don't.
The tyranny of cheap plastic toys must be stopped.
* The Naked Dad and Yummy Mummy Club accept no responsibility or liability for damages caused to rec centre vending machines as a result of this article. This article is for entertainment purposes only.
As a heterosexual white man in his 30s, I often ask what I can do to help make the sorts of change that need to be made in the world. And time and time again, I'm told that bystander intervention is the key. I've written about street harassment; I've written about homophobia in sports; I've written about casual sexism... and over and over the message is clear: it's not enough to not be an active part of the problem.
Change will only happen when the silent majority speaks out.
But here's the thing - intervening can be hard. Not as hard as being subject to constant abuse or marginalization, admittedly, but it can be hard. Most people are naturally averse to confrontation. It's why the work of groups like White Ribbon Canada is so important; they don't just tell people that intervention is important, they provide tools to make it easier. Because it's not always easy.
And since I've started trying to call out casual sexism, racism, and all other forms of discrimination, I've paid a lot more attention to how interventions are received. Sometimes it sorta works, often times it doesn't. And other times? It goes amazingly well.
Earlier this week I saw one of those amazing interventions. And I think we can all learn a lot from exactly how it went down. The following is a paraphrased version:
Person A: "Hey, Person B, saw your latest blog post. Unfortunate that you used "crazy" so casually so soon after talking about the importance of mental health initiatives.
Person B: "Oh wow, you're right. Never even thought about it. I'll fix it right now. No harm intended."
Person A: "Good on you, thanks."
If it ended there it would've been a success. Person A recognized that Person B wasn't trying to be hurtful; there was no malice to the intervention. It was the deed that was called out, not the individual. Person B recognized that what they did was careless and hurtful - even if not intended to be - and made it right.
But it didn't end there.
Person C: "Oh wow. I've used "crazy" in my online screen names for years and never really thought about that. Do you guys think I should change it?"
Person D: "That's up to you but here are several reasons it could be hurtful to people, even if no ill will is intended."
Person C: "You're right. Thanks. I'm going to change it."
Once again, no attacks. No blame. Just objectively making the case for changing behaviour. Now, obviously, these exchanges were successful because Person B and Person C were open to criticism and willing to acknowledge that their actions could hurt regardless of the innocuous nature of those actions. Not everyone is so receptive to being called out.
But then again, isn't the whole idea to create change by tackling the casual and persistent discrimination that exists? Maybe if we all know when to adopt the "hate the game, not the player" approach of Person A and Person D this sort of exchange can indeed become the norm.
There's a time and a place for outrage and rhetoric. Some people won't listen unless you scream. But there's also a time and a place for a less antagonistic intervention. I guess if we want to change minds on the internet we just have to get good at knowing which is which.