Tuesday 27 January 2009

Stupid things that I have bought

In a rare moment of uncharacteristic consistency, here's the followup and matching counterpart to a previous post where I discussed the various foolish things my wife has wasted our hard-earned cash on. This time, as promised, why don't we examine a few ill thought-out purchases of my own?

1) A Curious George bathtime bubble-blower.
This was a present for our youngest this past Christmas. She is not really one for communicating her hobbies and interests, so you have to kind of extrapolate from observed behaviour. On that premise, her hobbies seem to consist of casual violence and wanton destruction, and much as I am sure she would appreciate a claw hammer and big bag of marbles for throwing, they did seem somewhat inappropriate for a two-year old. But she has also been known to sit still for literally minutes on end while the Curious George DVD is playing, so a 'bubble blowing' bathtime doll of her favourite cartoon monkey seemed a good bet.
I could not have been more wrong: she loathes it.
The Curious George bubble-blower is a foot-high plastic monkey that you can take into the bath. When filled with bubble mixture, he blows bubbles when squeezed - at least, that is what he is supposed to do. However, in practise, what he actually does when squeezed is puke a sickly white foam out of his mouth, like the last shuddering death throes of a rabid dog. His chest cavity then wheezes dramatically as it sucks in air, which is very unsettling. Couple that with the fact that he has a horrible 'skin-like' rubbery surface and the cold dead eyes of a serial killer and you have the stuff of childhood nightmares - and that's before you consider that, in order to fill him with bubble mixture in the first place, you have to open a slot in the back of his head and inject it into his cranium using a special syringe specifically supplied for this purpose, like a kind of 'My first vivisection' doll.
She screams when she sees it. An epic failure on many levels, although I think my purchase is not quite as large a failing as whoever commissioned it in the first place and then subsequently greenlit production. Here's a handy tip for any toy manufacturers reading this: any child's toy that requires you to insert a syringe into a monkey's head is almost certainly in need of a rethink.

2) An umbrella from Poundland
Yes, yes, I know; I was asking for it. It's the pound shop, right? They only sell things for a pound. Even before the world economy came crashing down and sterling went into freefall, you couldn't buy much for a pound. And there's so much that can go wrong with a cheap umbrella: it can fail to deploy, the spindles can break, the fabric can tear: it's very clearly an unwise object to only spend a pound on. And yet, here's my defence: it was raining, and I didn't have an umbrella - but I did have a pound. And I only needed it to last for 30 minutes.
It lasted twenty. Then a sudden gust of wind not only blew it inside out, but blew all the fabric clean off the frame, which whirled away like a giant bat - leaving me forlornly holding an umbrella skeleton in a torrential downpour, much to the amusement of a whole busload of passing commuters.

3) Battery operated toothbrushes.
I buy them, at great expense. I successfully clean my teeth with them that night, and the following morning. Then, while I am work the next day, my youngest daughter picks them up, turns them on, and leaves them in bath, because she likes the buzzing noise that makes. When I get home that night that batteries are flat, and I find that I am left with what is effectively a standard toothbrush that I have paid 6-7 times over the odds for.

4) Mister Kart.
My wife maintains this is indicative of just how little I actually understand her, and still cites it now, over a decade later, as an example of how crass I am. I still maintain this was a sound purchase and that she needs to get over herself. Why don't you be the judge?
There was a time, before I wore down her defences though an intensive programme of unsubtle psychological attrition, when my wife was 'just' my girlfriend (I hope this lays to rest the scandalous rumour that the only reason she is married to me is that she was purchased over the Internet). Back then, I used to make a bit more effort and try to go out of my way to impress her, which I now realise was a cruel mistake, because all I did was set her expectations waaaaay too high, and she has been on a downer ever since. But during that time (what she would describe as "the golden days", when I was prepared to suppress my farts in her presence and to at least pretend to be prepared to talk about 'feelings') she lived in London, and worked as a fashion textile designer. When she visited me at weekends she would often bring work back with her, which meant my dining room soon started to fill up with paint, pastels, sketches of flowers, etc. This artistic detritus began to interfere with my own usage of the room during the week (largely the storage of pizza boxes and the long term collection of dust) so, in a moment of shining altruism, I decide to invest in a storage solution for it all.
"What's this?" she asked, looking horrified when she saw it.
"That is Mister Kart" I explained, pointing to where the name had been injection-moulded into the black, shiny polypropylene surface in a distant Chinese sweatshop.
"I see. And what is Mister Kart for, exactly?"
"He is a three-drawer storage solution, useful for..." I began.
"Mister Kart," she interrupted icily, "is a plastic vegetable rack. For keeping potatoes and carrots in."
"That is just one suggested usage. Mister Kart is versatile. Mister Kart, can also, for example, be used to store paintbrushes. Or pastels. Or..."
"That is the ugliest, cheapest piece of shit I have ever seen in my life, and if you think I am storing my art supplies in it, you are mental."
A short pause.
"I bought if for you," I explained, slightly hurt. "It's a gift."
"You don't understand me at all, do you?"
A much lengthier pause. In retrospect, it was a key moment in our relationship. I suspect, had I played things differently, that I would not now be married with kids.
"You don't have to use it." I said weakly.
When we moved out of the house, some two years later, I found the still unused Mister Kart under the stairs. I went to put it on the removal van, but my new wife gave me a look like thunder and so I left it in the kitchen for the new house owners. I hope they loved and appreciated it more than the woman it was bought for....


Anonymous said...

It still surprises me that Kate agreed to go out with me again after, early in our relationship, I turned up with a gift of a pair of socks (cute ones with something about chocolate on them!) and a chopping board. The latter had been chosen due to an earlier discussion about how revolting and unhygienic her ancient, much-abused wooden one had become: the very fact that someone of my less-than-overly-fastidious nature had even bothered to comment on it should indicate how bad it was.

I think I got away with it by playing up the 'quirky' angle. I know that if I did such a thing today, I'd be sleeping in the shed.

Unknown said...

if it was me, I'd've chopped it up for my next artwork;-)