1. Toys at the drug store
Somewhere in China there are hundreds of smoking factories cranking out these pieces of shit that somebody keeps putting at my daughter's eye level at Rite-Aid. That's what really gets me: somewhere there are actually millions of smoking factory workers making this stuff: the droopy-looking dinosaurs that squeak mournfully when squeezed; the die-cast semi trucks that fall apart after 11 seconds of play; the PVC bags filled with drab, monochromatic GIs or farm animals that all look like bloated Siamese cats. I try to imagine a factory worker injecting Polyvinyl Chloride into a precision mold to produce thousands of rubber chicken keychains or whatever for his daily handful of yuan. Is there any purpose to the things he makes other than squeezing a few more dollars out of some undisciplined American parent who needs to get out of Walgreens without a ten minute conversation about why his daughter doesn't need that doll with skin the consistency of a milk jug and some other kid's thumbdents already in it?
At what point did the PRC's top commie brass realize that its factories already made everything the world needed, so it was necessary to begin making billions and billions of things that nobody in the world needs or even wants? Nobody except my daughter, apparently:
"That flashing LED starfish necklace is a piece of junk, honey. Half of the ones in the bin don't even work. . ."
"Sorry, it still smells a little like SARS. . ."
"We don't need it, baby. We need to have a long conversation about what the word 'need' means."
"There's no way I'm paying $2.99 for what would be just a buck at the Dollar General."
"Okay, okay, if you promise to shut up about it. . ."
I've always thought that if a son of mine turned out to have some kind of mutant superpower, I would never reject him and send him off to live with that bald guy from Star Trek The Next Generation. I would nurture and celebrate his power, I thought. But I never imagined that my son's superpower would be the ability to analyze the sugar content of any foodstuff from twenty feet in order to reject or accept it. I could hire one of those people who make Taco Bell appear edible for television commercials to make a perfect-looking chocolate cake out of potted meat and my son would be able to tell it didn't contain sugar if he saw it on a low-res Youtube video. I can be struggling to get his attention to eat an edamame bean or avocado and someone in the next room will shift their weight and his mutant ears will hear the peppermint tic-tacs in their pocket. He calls all food worthy of consumption "cake." He calls everything else "yuck." Yesterday I told him a beautiful sliver of heirloom tomato was cake and the look he gave me said, Why would you lie to me, father? Don't you know I have a special power?
If he doesn't get over this phase pretty soon, I'm afraid we'll have a Little Chrissy on our hands:
(from John Waters' 1998 film Pecker).