Sunday, October 5, 2008

Saint Paul and #43

I had cereal for breakfast this morning. I've eaten Cheerios (I never knew they had another name! The things you read when you haven't got your spoon) my whole life and plan on continuing until breakfast, as the most important meal of the day, is mooted because I've run out of days. I never 'save a penny' and buy the knock-offs as none of the store-brand versions get the taste right. I eat my Cheerios dry as I don't like seeing them as life preservers in a white ocean, bobbing up and down in milk. And by milk I mean whole milk as I don't play the percentages, ever. (And I love that idea-we drink 2% milk because it's heart-smart but eat red meat and more of it than anyone in the history of the planet. Sniff, sniff. I smell a contradiction, do you?)

I was staring at the box in the "Rose City that Doesn't Sleep" (I prefer that slogan to the one currently circulating informally: "Norwich where the cops drive Fords through Dodge City.") There's not a whole lot to do early in the mornings, so I studied the artwork. Across the box's mid-section in a band nearly two and half inches wide (I had a ruler and, yes, I measured) is an announcement I'm holding a "limited edition collectors box" of Bobby Labonte Team 43 driver.

I almost dropped the bowl in my eagerness to get to the computer and check out ebay for the going price for my limited edition collectors box. Hey-I don't know about you, but my stock portfolio took it in the shorts over the last couple of weeks. My new retirement plan is to buy lottery tickets and redeem bottle and can deposits (I'm going with both bottles and cans because my broker told me to diversify). I was hoping I could speed up the retirement calendar so me and the missus could start our move sooner to Florida where we'll catch so much sun we'll look like baseball gloves and we can play checkers until we pass away. (I aced the residency test. I can leave the left blinker on in the car for hours at a time.)

Except it looks like I'll need a whole lot more cans and bottles as the bidding for my limited edition collectors box, including the cereal within, wouldn't cover the cost of mailing it to the winner. Then I remembered about a year or so ago, and it was Cheerios (but Fruity Cheerios), had a die-cast car in the cereal box. It sort of reminded me, as I suspect it was supposed to, of the Matchbox cars we had as kids. Those were made in England, which was very exotic, and the doors would open or the wheels would turn and bounce up and down as if they had shock absorbers. Now they're cranked out by the millions in third world sweat shops just down the street from where the big bucks sneaker companies have built their factories.

That's when I realized growing up is a terrible idea (and why I have fought so long, successfully, to NOT grow up but instead, and sadly, have grown old). Only adults used to eat cereal without toys in the boxes. Remember that? You could get amazing stuff in cereal boxes. Okay, not like we got the Haldron Collider, but still. Can you imagine how cranked Mom would have been if we did? Putting it together at breakfast, seeing if it worked, probably blowing up the whole kitchen and then running to catch the school bus and leaving Mom to clean up the mess. Ahh, those were good times....

Now, no one gets toys-somebody actually put books in a cereal box (!) Why stop there? How about socks or sensible shoes? It's not about the toy or the fun of the toy--it's the unlimited vista of potential when you'd reach down through the cereal to get to the bottom of the box and pull out the plastic package. For a moment your imagination would run riot at what it might be and what you could build. Sure, it snapped together in less than a minute, but that was never the point-it was the allure of the possible not the tyranny of the reality. Who of us didn't study the boxes on the store shelves, not for fiber content or the MDR of Vitamin B, but to imagine the color of the prize inside.

And now? A limited edition collectors box. And we wonder why kids no longer dream. "When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things." Silly Rabbit Saul, it's not just Trix that are for kids.
-bill kenny

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