Here and Now

There’s a territorial dragon in my living room. It’s two feet long, it’s blue, and it’s noisy. It growls at me as I walk by, and it screams if I bump it. It also has terrible manners. Earthy sounds emanate from it. Sounds like you might hear from a person with GERD who just ate a chili dog. Sounds like a person with lactose intolerance who just ate a bowl of ice cream would make. This creature even ingests and evacuates, but at least it’s not chili dogs and ice cream; it’s toy cars.


Its mission in life is to entertain small children, and at this, it succeeds with aplomb.


Please know, I’m not throwing shade on toys that act like humans; I had one myself way back in the mid-20th century: a Tiny Tears doll. Tiny would drink from a bottle, cry real tears, and tinkle real water. She used the same water you had fed her in the bottle, and it’s a testament to my compliant nature that I never put milk or orange juice in that bottle. I bet some parents of adventurous children with a Tiny in the house have some bad memories from a milk-fed Tiny in the back of the closet. I do need to credit my Tiny Tears for influencing my future; her anatomy was so perplexing that I’m pretty sure I grew up to be a nurse so I could find out if anybody else in the world tinkled from the middle of their left buttock.


Back to the dragon. This dragon’s lucky day was the morning that the big-store employee placed it on a shelf labeled $19.99 and my (at the time) three year old Little Buddy spotted it. For a toddler, Little Buddy is a joy to shop with. He is discriminating. He cruises every aisle methodically, occasionally picks up a toy to investigate, and has been heard to say “I have that already”. I swear you can see his little mind putting a sticky note on a toy he might return to and reconsider, and more often than not, that’s the one he winds up choosing to ask me for.


Once we were in the Doctor Store (his ‘L’s haven’t come in yet) and although he had looked at every single toy in the building, nothing was calling his name. In overindulgent mode, I had asked him at least three times if he was sure he didn’t see anything he wanted, so just to humor me, he picked up a $1 can of pink Play-Doh. He scanned it, I paid the dollar plus tax, and it was weeks before the lid came off.

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On Dragon Day, we were in a much larger store. Little Buddy had scoured the toy department and nothing was calling his name. Until, as we rolled out of the toys, he spotted this huge Hot Wheels dragon on an end-cap shelf. It was the Dragon of his Dreams! He wanted it, I saw the $19.99 shelf label, and the lucky dragon migrated from its shelf to the snuggling arms of the toddler in the buggy.

At checkout, it rang up at $79.99. I feebly explained to Little Buddy that we should go back and find a smaller dragon, but he just smiled and hugged that box and said, “This is the one I want.” And I knew he was telling the truth because he had been willing to leave with nothing until he saw this critter. I wasn’t about to take the one toy in the whole store that the little guy wanted away from his sweet little arms.

I did, however, contest the $19.99 shelf label, and as the helpful customer service manager accompanied us back to the dragon’s former shelf-home, she pointed straight up, where the sign saying $79.99 hung down from the ceiling. Lesson learned: in very big stores, always look up!

At this point I need to clarify that this toy is actually not a dragon; it is a dinosaur: a T. Rex. But while it’s in my house it’s a dragon, because a dinosaur would have better manners than this barbarian does. Despite Little Buddy’s frequent reminders that “NiNi, it’s a dinosaur, not a dragon”, as long as it exhibits the unsavory behaviors described here in my house, it’s a dragon. In case you want one of your own, it’s called the “The Hot Wheels™ City Ultimate Hauler”, and I am receiving no pay for this information.

In the lucky beast’s defense, it *has* been LB’s favorite toy in my house for a long time, so the investment was good, but it still resists all reminders to practice manners. Even LB will shake his finger when it burps and tell it to, “Say excuse me!” It just burps again.

The burps, growls and screeches are the least offensive of its earthy behaviors, however. Although it appears to be designed to carry and store tiny little cars, it also loves to eat them. That’s right: you can put a little car in front of it, then roll it forward, and it will consume that little car. It’s so ravenous that it will even consume several little cars at a time, and it *can* hold up to twenty! And then, of course, it burps. Not the polite little burp you’d expect from a dinosaur; no, it erupts with a protracted belch that sometimes ends with a screech for good measure.

Sometimes it spits out one of those little cars it ate. But most of the time, the ingested vehicles make their way down the dragon-tummy-trail and their only journey to freedom comes when a certain button is pressed on the dragon’s lower back.

You know how nothing comes with instructions anymore? Well, the instructions are actually there on the product; they’re just little pictures now. I am proud to say I am fluent in “on/off” symbols and a small cache of icons. But today’s toddlers are growing up with icon-speak as their native tongue: Little Buddy, is often better than I am at “reading” instructions. This has been the case with the Living Room Dragon. But early on, I spotted an icon that looks like a swirl of chocolate ice cream, only it has googly eyes and it’s the opposite (literally) of ice cream. I kid you not, this dragon has a button with that picture on its back, and what’s more, it’s functional! When pressed, out come the cars that have been previously consumed, and they come out on the end of the dragon that you would expect digested cars to exit. Sound effects accompany. At least the cars it had for lunch emerge intact and fragrance-free. Grateful for small favors.

The product description includes(1):

“Kids can launch their cars from the mouth of the T-Rex and it looks like it’s spitting.

Lights and sounds enhance the fun with glowing red eyes and burps, chomps and toots (my substitute word for what was actually in the description)!”

When helping keep Little Buddy for a couple of days after his tonsillectomy, I logged 18 hours of watching what 4 year olds watch on TV. Mickey Mouse, PJ Masks and Paw Patrol are captivating enough, but sometimes the buddy wants a YouTube video where some hands (that don’t appear to be attached to a body) unbox and play with real toys. The boredom is real for grown-ups, but it’s important to note that these things are creating a fresh level of consumerism in little bitty people.

There came a commercial that I didn’t skip fast enough, but then I couldn’t take my eyes away. A small doll with very very (very!) big eyes in ratio to the rest of herself was being “fed” with a syringe full of green slime. Turns out, this doll eschews the vintage skills of drink/wet/cry; she brings a new set of activities and so do her friends. All you have to do is pump her full of the green slime (included with purchase) using the supplied syringe (also included with purchase), and then squeeze that precious little head. Depending on which doll you bought (and you won’t know which one you have until you’ve unwrapped it at home), the slime will either gush out of her mouth or generate a rear-endly-located puff of air that’s full of glitter. If you think this sounds like fun, you may start your collection right now at WalMart!

The product description includes: (2)

“Rainbow surprise fantasy friends are the adorable, mini dolls that spit slime and toot glitter!

When you press their belly, they toot a puff of glitter!

Includes new adorable drink cans and airtight bags to store slime.+

I just can’t talk about this any more; I hope you understand.

My point in sharing these gag-refles-inducing details is this: these toys are born of human ideas. Actual people sat around a room and decided what this gassy dragon and that slime-pooping doll would look like and how they would behave (or not). I’m sure these creatives had lengthy discussions and lively negotiations on which bodily noises and functions the toy should deliver, and once they had decided, they went on to sell all the features to the company’s design and engineering department.

The Engineering Department would require detailed specifications on the critter’s size, appearance, noises, how to raise it up so it looked like a T- Rex, how to put a racing ramp on its back that would open a trap door under the car that was behind so it never had a chance, and most of all, how the beast would physically ingest, process and evacuate whole cars. They would need to know the difference in creating a burp from a growl and a screech from a toot.

To my point, I just have to believe that those people in the room who designed this vociferous, eructating and flatulating dragon-o-saurus had an absolute BLAST doing it!

There can be no greater reward than to enjoy what you get to do every day, and in this stress-filled world where some of the people on the news could play both roles in a cab driver fight, it gives me hope to think that zany, enjoyable jobs like this are out there for our youngsters to seek. I hope that more of them will come along, and I also pray that in all of the everyday jobs we have, we can each find some joy.

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