The Kenwood Press
Publishers' Corner: 05/15/2017

Toys R Not Us

Alec Peters

My colleague and I were having a philosophical discussion about the skill level necessary for using a yo-yo compared to juggling three balls in the air. How we got to this conversation I can’t remember.

She, we’ll call her Sarah, mentioned during our high-brow debate that she is incapable of making a yo-yo do the basic down-up move. I didn’t believe her, convinced that even a chimpanzee could figure that out in a couple of minutes. So in the name of science I bought a yo-yo and she gave it a go. Sarah could not get the yo-yo to come back up at all, resorting to yanking it and tangling the string like a wad of fishing line.

Let me be clear, I can’t do much with a yo-yo except the basics, but I can do that pretty well.

I suggested Sarah could do the required 10,000 hours to master the toy (a la Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers), or be tutored by Kenwood yo-yo master Tommy Smothers.

Sarah politely told me to get a life and went back to work.

But all this got me thinking about the many toys I could never master. Was I too lazy or were these toys above my skill level?

The hula-hoop – looks fun, right? I could not get that darn thing to rotate once, let alone for a sustained amount of time. It’s stupid, anyway.

Pogo-stick – I would practice this one, determined to be bouncing down the sidewalk in no time, waving to the admiring masses. Unfortunately, I would always end up on the ground, bleeding. Into the back of the garage it went.

Boomerang – This is an awesome flying thing I thought would change my life. Heave it and it comes right back to your hand, just like on TV. Well it turned out it was more exercise than I planned. I heaved it all right, then had to go get it. Heave it, go get it, heave it, go get it. Fun.

Cup and Ball – Piece of cake, or so I thought. This stringed game really exposes one’s lack of hand-eye coordination. I need not elaborate. There’s a similar game now called kendama. It’s nice to know a new generation of kids will be humiliated just like their forefathers. It’s the American way.

Space Hopper – also known as a kangaroo ball, hippity hop, etc. Also known as toy most likely to cause face plants. A big rubber ball with a handle on top that you sit on – what could go wrong? They are still around, but now require a helmet and liability waiver signed by a parent.

One thing I did master was the Pet Rock, but was told later that wasn’t much of an achievement. I did get good at throwing a Frisbee, which of course was a college requirement. And I did learn how to juggle, which made me a real catch.

– Alec