Monday, July 12, 2010

The Silly-Band-Wagon

They're everywhere from the arms of toddlers to teenagers to adults, even. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw what appeared to be a forty-something man with two "Silly Bandz" around his wrist. He's not the only one. When first I heard about the now-popular trend, as two middle school girls explained them to another cashier at work, I honestly thought they were the dumbest thing I'd ever heard of. First, the idea that a little shaped silicone rubber band was a good thing to carry around was absurd. What purpose would anyone have for walking around with a dozen--indeed, dozens--of those useless toys? Second, when you wear them as bracelets, no one can even tell what they are supposed to be, so whatever point there was is lost. Much to my dismay, this sure-to-bust fad soon reached my younger siblings' school.

I was in the arcade of a bowling alley wasting tokens on one of those games where the jackpot is always some crazy amount of tokens that no one ever actually wins, hoping to walk away with twenty-or-so tickets if I was lucky. I was lucky. I was, in fact, lucky enough to win the crazy amount of tokens that no one ever wins. (This is a good story, actually. Remind me to tell you sometime.) Dumbstruck, I picked out a cute plush animal with giant eyes, and gave the rest to my sister and friend to spend on their growing Silly Band fetish. I do believe this makes me an enabler. Guilty as charged.

But something of greater weight happened that fateful night. Looking at all the ridiculous shapes as they picked through them, selecting high heels and castles, a glittery red one caught my eye. It was a dragon. It was awesome. Unable to believe what I was doing, I said, "Hang on. I want this one," and picked it up.

To date, I have somehow accumulated two more: A saxophone and a unicorn (which glows in the dark). I refuse to become engulfed in the frenzy of trading, bargaining, comparing, collecting, and bragging that my brother has swan-dived into full-force, although it is a little entertaining to watch. I'm happy with the three I have, and when I wear them to work they seem to be a hit with the theater's younger clientele. And they're conversation starters. If you've met someone who's wearing one, you can't really go wrong by asking him what his silly band is. Tada! Ice broken.

Based on my experience, I quickly developed a theory: If you hate them, you only hate them until you find that one you like, then they're okay. Isn't it amazing how the quality of a product will instantly change like that? My hypothesis was supported by a friend of mine (who didn't really know he was a guinea pig). The trumpet-player grumbled constantly about the stupidity of the fad. One day he showed up at the lunch table wearing one, silent. "What's your silly band?" I asked him, a tiny, smug smile on my face. He looked down. "A trumpet," he mumbled.

It's an interesting way to express yourself, since no one actually knows what it is you're expressing unless you tell them. But maybe we'll start talking to one another again, without having to hide behind a cell phone. Or maybe they're just this generation's Pokemon cards. But it's not like they're misleading anyone. After all, folks, the word "silly" is in the name.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Happiest Place on Earth

Recently, my family and I went on a five day vacation (I use this term loosely) to Disney World. Honestly, it was fun. Although the constant reminders to "Have a magical day" got monotonous after a while, something about all that magic makes it easier to believe it really is Mickey Mouse standing in front of you than a stranger in a suit. At the same time, I couldn't help but feel like I'd outgrown it, compared to the last time I'd been there, ten years ago.

My primary grievance was the thrill level of the vast majority of rides. You'd think between four theme parks you'd be able to find more than two decent roller coasters. My favorite ride was "Rock 'n' Roller Coaster," but that's probably because it was the only roller coaster in all of Disney World that turned upside-down. "Expedition Everest" was the other one that managed to lift my stomach up a little. Those rides were fun. But that was about it.

In just about every other ride at Disney World, you wait in line for an hour or so (unless you "fastpass" it, which puts the wait at about twenty minutes), climb into some sort of vehicle (boat, truck, spaceship, etc.), ride around on a track, watch little animatronic animals and people, get air blown in your face by some sort of jet I could never spot, and if you're lucky you might get squirted with water or shaken around a little. A maddening number of rides also try to educate you. Someone ought to let them know that it's summer and everyone in their right mind has switched their brains over to hibernate mode until mid-August. Still, I fear I may have absorbed a fact or two about eco-friendly farming or the progress of household technology.

Worse than that was riding the rides I'd loved as a seven-year-old. I'd been content to ride "Goofy's Barnstormer" over and over, and inside "It's a Small World" I was about as happy as I knew how to be. My butt no longer fits properly in "Goofy's Barnstormer" and the robotic French dancers seemed to have lost their rhythm. Now, I'm pretty sure it's the same place it was ten years ago, but now the epithet "The Happiest Place on Earth" sounds more like a misnomer. But the six year old at the neighboring table in Chef Mickey's Character Breakfast would probably disagree.