Saturday, December 14, 2013

Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto

"The problem with winter sports is that -- follow me closely here --
they generally take place in winter."

-- Dave Barry

Kids meal toy 12-14-13

"Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
And if I die before I wake
I pray the Lord my toys will break.
So none of the other kids can use 'em ... Amen."

-- Shel Silverstein, A Light in the Attic

"I love skating and sparkling
and flying around the ice,
and people clap for you.
It's an amazing feeling."

-- Johnny Weir

I went to out to lunch with my boys yesterday.

Sam is home from college and I took Leo out of school for a dentist appointment, and he was hungry afterwards, so he texted his brother and we all met at Wendy's.

When the boys were little, it wasn't uncommon for us to grab lunch at Wendy's. A couple of kid's meals for them, a salad and fries for me. I didn't have to make lunch, I didn't have to clean up, and the boys each got a toy. Good times. 

Times have changed. 

I still didn't have to make lunch or clean up, but this time, it was me who ordered the kid's meal. I just wanted the little bitty fries and the little bitty Sprite. (I gave Leo the burger to wash down his chicken sandwich.) 

Really, though, I wanted the toy. A specific toy. There were several possibilities on display -- some really good ones, and a couple of clunkers.

I was pumping ketchup into my tiny  paper ketchup cups, and one of the restaurant workers (who was on her lunch break) looked up from her food and said "Let me guess. The kid's meal is for you." I suppose she looked at the two grown men accompanying me and did the math.

Me: "Yes." 

Her: "You know you can get the same fries, drink and burger from the value menu for less."

Me: "But then you don't get a toy."

Her: "You wanted the toy? Which one?"

Me:  "The robot. Or the helicopter. Or the whistle. But I really want the robot."

Her: "What'd you get?"

I hadn't looked yet. I was saving the big reveal for when I was situated at our table. But she got my curiosity up so I looked in the bag and peeked. It wasn't the robot. Or the helicopter. Or the whistle. It was something dumb. I got one of the clunkers.

Me: (sad face) "I got this."

Her: "Give it to me. I'll take care of it."

Me: "What? Really?"

Her: "Yeah. Sure. No problem. Gimme it."

Me: (Speechless, I am suddenly 5 years old and tongue-tied at the kindness of this stranger and the random good fortune that has befallen little me.)

So I handed her my disappointment and sat down with my boys, who'd witnessed the entire exchange and were just shaking their heads and laughing. What else is new? 

A few minutes later another Wendy's worker carrying my toy upgrade walked right past us and eyeballed a little boy sitting at another table.

Her: "Kid's meal toy?"

Me, Sam and Leo: (in unison) "Right here!"

She spun around on her heel and handed me my prize. 

Me: (sharp intake of breath) "It's the robot!"

And suddenly I forgot all about my little bitty fries and my little bitty Sprite. The robot had all of my attention. I was all like "Food? What food?"

(Which led me to wonder, if the officials in San Francisco really want to fight the war on childhood obesity, they shouldn't ban Happy Meals and the toys they contain. They should encourage them. Because, as I witnessed with my own children and now with myself, once I got my hands on that toy, I lost all interest in eating my food. I wanted to assemble my robot, and stick on his stickers, and make him pretend walk and pretend talk in a pretend robot voice. The way I see it, instead of telling Fat Suzy "Eat your food and then you can play with your toy," parents should just hand Fat Suzy her goddamn toy, give her food to a hungry football player, and watch Fat Suzy's belly melt away. Just a thought, San Francisco board of supervisors, just a thought.) 

But I digress.

Remember how a few days ago I said we have a rule about hunting? The "don't kill anything unless you plan to eat it or give it someone who will" rule?

Well, I have my own rule about toys. (OK, I just made it up, but bear with me.) The rule is this: don't ask for the kid's meal unless you plan to play with the toy or give it to someone who will. Well, you can bet I wasn't about to give away my robot after that nice Wendy's worker bestowed it on me. And if I wasn't going to give it away, that meant I had to play with it.

And so I did.

I dressed him in a little winter hat and scarf, made him a little skating rink, and had a fun photo session in the backyard snow. It was cold and exhilarating and time flew and I was 5 and happy and lost in play and (ahem, heads up, San Francisco) probably burned quite a few calories.

Rewind back to lunch, which is now a pile of wreckage -- empty wrappers, boxes, bags and the lonely sound of rattling ice and slurping the dregs of soft drinks through straws.

Me: "Do you know why I wanted the robot?"

Sam and Leo: (in unison) "Because it has a face."