What Were They Thinking?
I'm sure most of you can remember things you really enjoyed playing with as a kid. Everyone has their favorites. For boys, it often involves something that can either move, shoot, make noise, or it appeared to be somewhat dangerous. For girls, it was something pretty, doll-related, all the other kids wanted it, or it had to do with horses. But every once in a while, for both boys and girls, a product came along that just wasn't right.
Often these products seemed like a great idea to the general population, even the potential buyer. Let's go back and talk about five of these types of products, and see if you have similar thoughts about them.
1. WATER WEENIES
Hey! Mine Popped!
Let's imagine you and your friend are about 7 years old, and you both just arrived at play group. You have a brand-new Water Weenie. The conversation between you and your friend probably would have gone something like this:
Friend: "What do you have there?"
You: "It's a Water Weenie!"
Friend: "Yeah? What does it do?"
You: "Well, try holding it."
(You hand the Water Weenie to your friend, and it immediately slips out of his hand, landing on the ground).
Friend: "Wow! That's cool!"
You: "Want to go climb trees?"
And so on, and so forth. Basically, a Water Weenie was (and still is, as shown in the Amazon link below), a thin rubber cylinder whose walls were filled with water. (At least, I think it was water). As long as you held it flat, it did absolutely nothing. Tilt it towards one end, and it would start to crawl towards that end. For some odd reason, these things were fun. But looking back, they were kind of ridiculous.
Oh yeah, if you leave it in the back of the car on a hot summer's day, it pops. No joke.
Amazon Price: $1.87 Buy Now
(price as of Sep 6, 2015)
2. Tubeless Bicycle Tires
At a certain point in a young boy's life, one of the most exciting things to do with a bicycle is to see how long a skid-mark one could make on the neighborhood sidewalk. This was accomplished by finding a long stretch of sidewalk, preferably one that was on a hill. Then the rider would take the bike to the top of the hill, mount the saddle, and prepare for the descent. The young rider pedaled as hard as possible, getting the bike up to full speed, and at the right time, he rose out of the saddle, shifted his weight ever so slightly, and then stomped as hard as possible on the pedals in the opposite direction, locking up the rear tire thus creating the longest skid-mark man has ever seen.
Skid-marks were concrete evidence of how awesome you could ride a bike. You could take your friends to your new sidewalk-tattoo, and they would get off their bikes, and walk the full length of the mark, saying out loud "whoa.....AWESOME!” And then the cycle repeats itself, with all the boys trying to out-do each other.
-Then the property owner steps outside and chases the kids away. That part sucked.
Anyway, after practicing this skill a number of times and performing it at various spots in the neighborhood, our young rider starts to notice small holes in the middle of his rear tire. "Strange", he thinks, as the tire appears to still be nice and hard, apparently still 'inflated'.
Weeks later, the rider notices that his rear tires is indeed not inflated, but made up of some kind of hard plastic and rubber compound, as the center of the tire is completely gone, all the way around the tire. The bike now is unsafe to ride, as pieces of the tire's sidewalls chip off, especially during hard cornering (young boys don't take soft corners). The rider asks his parents to put on a new tire, and their response is simply "no, because not only have you wasted your tire on skid-marks, but they don't make replacements for those wheels".
And to you, that sounds absolutely ridiculous.
3. Control Line Airplanes
I'm Feeling a Little Dizzy!
Radio control anything was like pure magic to a young boy the first time they see it: A toy that moves apparently on its own, in all directions. -Totally cool. Radio control airplanes were even cooler, as they could take off, soar through the skies, perform stunts, and land again, just like a real airplane. But what about the kid who wasn't ready for radio control models? They're not cheap, especially when they hit the ground at a high rate of speed, and end up in more pieces than you started with. What was available for those kids?
Control-line models, that's what.
Control line airplanes really required two people: one to launch the model, and another to control it. The model was controlled by two lines, strings really, that typically controlled the airplane's stabilizer (controls plane's height off the ground during flight). These models were typically gas-powered, so once the model was airborne, the pilot was in it for as long as the tank of gas lasted, or as long as the pilot could keep from crashing.
Imagine you and your friend have just launched your control line model, and it's flying through the air. Its flight path is simple: a circle. And you, the pilot, are at the center of that circle. And you are constantly turning around to watch your plane and keep it from hitting the ground. There were typically two, maybe three possible outcomes from this experience:
- You crash the plane
- You have to puke, and crash the plane
- You run out of gas, and crash the plane
These products seemed like a lot of fun, but I don't know of anyone who had one, and became a repeat user of it. Looked great on the shelf, seemed like fun as you got started, but soon became something that was fairly ridiculous.
Amazon Price: $34.99 Buy Now
(price as of Sep 6, 2015)
To me, Go-Bots were the bane of Transformer-style toys. I mean, they didn't even really try to make them interesting. Take a look at the product link below to see what I mean (look at the rear box-shot, 4th picture down on the product page). See what I mean? The toy looks cheap, doesn't have hardly any unique detail to it, has a lame transformation (if you want to call it that) process. (Compare it to the Transformers I've reviewed here and here). The cartoon for Go-Bots didn't hold a candle to the Transformers series.
At the risk of launching a full-blown rant, I'll just conclude with the fact that Go-Bots were ridiculous.
Amazon Price: Buy Now
(price as of Sep 6, 2015)
5. Rock Tumblers
Polished Rocks are just cool. No two really look the same. Different colors, shapes, shines, metallic and non-metallic, etc. What kid doesn't start sorting through the table of polished rocks at the tourist-trap on summer vacation, thinking "I'm going to find the best ones; I know they're in here somewhere!"
Then after the rocks are found, and purchased, they are examined in depth for the next however many hours left on the road trip. At some point along the way, the young geologist makes a startling discovery: "I bet we could do this! This doesn't look that hard!"
A few weeks later, the young geologist has sold his idea to his parents, and they have purchased a rock tumbler. It's now all set up, the rocks and grit and fluid are in the tumbler, and the family has gathered around to watch the initial start-up.
Ten minute pass. Then fifteen minutes. -Now twenty.
"Dad?” asks the son.
"Let's check the rocks, see how far along they are!"
The tumbler is stopped, and a rock removed for inspection. It looks just like it did upon insertion.
The tumbler is restarted.
Days pass by. The noisy tumbler tumbles on.
Weeks later, the tumbler is removed, and contents emptied out on to a cloth. The rocks are noticeably smoother.
"Are we done Dad?"
Dad reads the instruction manual. "Now we rinse them off, clean out the tumbler, and add polish".
"How long do we wait after that Dad?"
Dad reads further into the manual.
"Two more weeks"
Dad unplugs the tumbler, dumps the rocks, and turns to his son.
"Son, you want to go to the store and pick out some polished rocks?"
Thus, rock tumblers are ridiculous.
Amazon Price: $49.99 $39.99 Buy Now
(price as of Sep 6, 2015)