First, let me say that I’m a big fan of your work. Presents for all the good little girls and boys of the world on Christmas — brilliant. Keeping the list of who has been naughty or nice — let’s just say that’s been a huge motivator in our household. And I remember fondly many of the gifts I found under the tree with your name on them. In fact, I even still have a few of them, tucked away in a special place.
However, at the risk of going on the naughty list, I’ve got a bone to pick with you. You see, I thought we had outgrown the obnoxiously noisy toys. But clearly, as I take inventory of goodies we found under the tree this year, you did not get that message.
I’ll concede that, when it comes to gifts, there is good noise and there is bad noise, and the difference between the two can be subjective. When I was young, my uncle used to send wonderful electronic gadgets and a jumbo pack of batteries for me and my siblings — and a bottle of Tylenol for my parents. I didn’t get it then. I mean, the year we all got matching laser blasters with flashing lights and 20 different sounds — imagine four different brands of smoke detectors going off at once, or maybe three car alarms and the neighbor’s home security system. Why would that give anyone a headache?
I think my attitude may have changed when my kids were toddlers, and they got a Sesame Street Elmo rockin’ guitar. Or it might’ve been the Bob the Builder talking Scoop backhoe toy. You see, both of those toys were motion activated, and — this is the key part — neither had an off button. It was one thing when the kids were playing with them. I grew up in a larger than average family, and for the most part, it’s just background noise to me.
But these things were turning on even when the kids weren’t in the room. You’d jostle a toy bucket, and all of the sudden, you’d be forced to “Jam with Elmo!” Or a dog would walk by, and you’d be confronted with the demand, “Can we build it?” followed by some tractor noises and an enthusiastic “Yes we can!”
I know I sound like the Grinch, complaining about the “noise, noise, noise,” but which elf had the idea to build electronic devices with no off switch? And the batteries in those things last forever. Somewhere, a second-hand Scoop is still asking for things to build, I’ll bet.
Anyway, I thought we were done with the noisy toys. The kids’ new gadgets — iPods — come with ear buds. And if they need to listen out loud, they can go to another part of the house, where they bother each other and not me. And the electric guitar may be noisy now, but I’m sure that in good time, it will be beautiful music — or least a close approximation.
But that one toy you left — it’s called a Bop It! Smash — is really starting to get on my nerves. I’m sure you’re familiar with it. The device has grips on each end, and lights that move back and forth in varying patterns. The idea is to smash the ends when the light is dead center, which by itself isn’t so bad, but when you combine it with the disco-techno music the thing plays, and the computerized compliments and taunts it throws out — well, it’s worse than trying to watch a movie while sitting next to someone who incessantly pops the bubble wrap all those toys came packaged in. (That person’s Bop It! high score is 227, by the way. She spent hours getting it, and it’s been a month since I’ve caught all the dialogue in a movie.)
Fortunately, the kids go back to school on Monday (as does my wife, a teacher), so the household din should return to normal levels.
So if I could, I’d like to put my request for next year in a little early. (I promise I’ll be good; no more snarky letters.) If you would be so kind, I’d really appreciate a set of those noise-cancelling headphones I’ve heard so much about. And if that doesn’t work for you, at least include the bottle of Tylenol — I can use the cotton that comes in it to plug up my ears.
And whatever you do, when it comes to packing those gifts, please use Styrofoam, or crumpled up newspapers, or old towels — anything but bubble wrap!
Clarion editor Will Morrow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.