2/28/2007

When I am King: Sound Off

When I am King...

Children's toys will not be allowed to make sounds.

I discussed size constraints on childrens' toys in a previous article. Today I need to discuss something equally as important: kids' toys should be inaudible.

I would use the phrase “seen and not heard,” except that I'd be happy to not see the toys, either.

It's midnight. The lights are off and you're just drifting to sleep. Then, from somewhere outside your room, you hear a “beep-beep!” Your eyes crack open, but all you hear is silence. So you ignore it. You're just drifting off again, and “beep-beep!” This time your eyes pop completely open. But once more, there's nothing. You just settle down again when “beep-beep!”.

Now you're completely awake. You've got to find what's producing the sound and eliminate it. But of course, all you have to go on is that short sound burst, issuing forth every 5 minutes. It's like a game of freeze tag where you can only move during the beeps, proceeding forward and swiveling your head, catlike, in a vain attempt to get closer to the source. You feel like the Terminator in a bathrobe.

Usually, you give up in frustration, stuff some toilet paper in your ears, and spend the next two hours pretending you can't here the sound drilling into your brain.

If you're very lucky, you'll find the culprit after a desperate, halting search of at least an hour. It always turns out to be some toy, buried in a chest full of other toys, whose button got somehow pushed. You dislodge it, freeing the button. You need to make sure this doesn't happen again, so you grab a shovel and bury it in the back yard, next to the other unmarked midnight graves. When the deed is done, you return to bed victorious, the smell of the grave fresh under your fingernails.

Finally, you can go to sleep. Five minutes later, just as you're nodding off, you hear RRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Some toy's button got pushed while you were moving things around to get the first toy.

That's for the toys with working batteries. More disturbing are the ones whose batteries are in their death knell. These toys are particularly frightening if they're speaking toys. As the battery dies, the toy starts talking in tongues and satanic voices. There are few things more disconcerting than Elmo saying “I love you” in the voice of Darth Vader.

But dying batteries for these creatures must be similar to our neurological diseases. As their brains die, sparks of random thought creep in. I could swear I heard Dora, with her dying breath, say “suck blood ... suck blood ... suck ... blood”. Maybe they're just latent wishes, built up from months and years of abuse or neglect, coming out like a confession on their death bed.

It is to protect our children, and my sleep, that I will enact a law banning toys that make sounds. No speakers, no squeakers, no voices, no choices: kids' toys will be inaudible.

Some might argue that this would limit the playing potential of children. “Oh rot,” I say. Whatever happened to imaginary friends? Or hearing voices? Maybe it's time the kids of today got back to the old traditions of hallucinations.

Others might argue that this law would be harmful to the toy industry, and limit the spectrum of toys available. On the contrary: I believe this could spawn entire new lines of toys to answer the silent call. For example, in the educational realm, all of the toys that currently teach kids to pronounce letters and words could teach sign language instead, which is a valuable skill. Especially around grumpy parents.

On the action figure front, I can envision a host of new toys on the market, such as the Teenage Mute Ninja Turtles.
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