The great Chinese toy loop

So now Aquadots are evil. But we already knew this. When our son got some of these for his 6th birthday last August, we immediately recognized that this toy – a bunch of BB-sized plastic pellets you squirt with water to get them to stick together into shapes – was apparently designed by people who really want to drive parents crazy. The reason being is that every Aquadot that doesn’t get stuck into the pattern ends up, as a matter of course, on the floor. And even those that do make it into the shape of a dog or a moose or whatever will be forgotten in a drawer or a shelf for an amount of time, after which its tenuous bonds will dissolve, putting the teeny pellets on the floor, in the bed, down our pants, in the food chain … you get the picture.

So Aquadot is a tale of yet another evil Chinese toy manufacturer slipping something into the American toy market that is harmful to humans (a group that includes children, most of the time). This after we’d already discovered all the Thomas the Train toys were painted with arsenic, the Polly Pockets burst into flames if you rub them together and that Elmo doll explodes on contact with fruit juice. As the trash cans of American families filled up with all these malevolent objects, it reminded me of my sister’s Easy-Bake oven back in the 70s. The thing shot out a 10-foot blue flame and incinerated my mother’s caged finches. My dad fiddled with the wiring and pronounced it fine, and the finches were replaced with a brace of gerbils: no legal action taken or contemplated.

Not so today. The Aquadot scare includes the story that two kids are in a coma after ingesting them. Andy came home from kindergarten with the knowledge that Aquadots will kill you if eaten. Then, after being informed by his mother that the Aquadots we were throwing out were worth about $15, he demanded an immediate trip to Wal-Mart to have them replaced with something of equal or greater value. (This request was denied. The lesson: Sometimes life isn’t fair, and if you think we’re going to get reimbursed by some company in Guangdong province, then I’ve got a sentient Transformer I want to sell you.)

As we hurtle toward Christmas and endure constant bombardment from all media regarding new toys on the market, I’ve come to take a dim view on toys in general. I especially dislike the cheap, plastic crap that gets handed out at birthday parties or distributed in Happy Meals. It’s all just bound for the landfill after a short time employed as a “toy,” and whether it’s coated in lead or sweet-scented herbs, it’s all just junk, with the kid exercising meaningful ownership for, perhaps, 20 minutes over the 10,000 year lifespan of the plastic “Bee Movie” character.

So, I won’t miss Aquadots, and I’m pretty sure Andy will get over their loss (they’d been largely forgotten by the time of the alert anyway). With Christmas looming, I watch the toy commercials in between episodes of “Spongebob” and “Danny Phantom” and gauge them by how long they’ll likely be used before being consigned to the landfill. Sadly, most of the toys don’t pass the two-week test.

Really, it’d be better to have the Chinese companies simply melt their output prior to shipping, creating an endless loop of production and recycling. American parents can be charged a yearly fee for not having to house and dispose of these products, and we’ll give our kids sticks and empty cardboard boxes to play with while diverting any money left over to buy livestock for Third World families.

Merry Christmas!

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