The Lost Files: Toys Are Better Without Batteries

Dec 26, 2010 by

Some things in life never change. Such as the most important thing to never forget on Christmas, other than of course it being when we celebrate the birth of the Son of Man.


And for the first time, I forgot them. And so today, the day after, I’m down at the local hardware store because I forgot. And I’m picking up two dozen AAs, a dozen Cs (who uses “C” batteries anymore?) and an assortment of Ds and AAAs. Ugh.

I’ve written about this before and found the column from the Lost Files. Some things never change. Below is the column.

The Lost Files were weekly columns written back around 2001-2003 while I was running a newspaper in the Midwest. They seem to have disappeared from the Internet, probably after some redesign of the newspaper’s web site. So, from time to time, I’ll report some of my favorites from saved hard copies (that’s paper to you new media types).  

I would like to share with you a little insider trading on the perfect investment. I’m providing this out of the goodness of my heart, with little regard for potential consequences from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Invest in batteries.

I am not talking about car batteries, but those C and D and 9-volt and Double AA and Triple AAA and other obscure sizes. The kicker, if you are anything like me with small ankle biters at home, you already spend an inordinate amount of your take-home pay on these little devices.

That being the case, shouldn’t you invest in the companies that make them? Think about it. It’s a business guaranteed to stay in business, and you’re supporting them anyway, so why not get a little dividend back?

I say all this from vast experience, as we have just celebrated Christmas with a three-year-old and a one-year-old. As an aside, it is obvious that either the battery companies own toy companies, or the reverse. They have to be in cahoots.

It is nearly impossible today to find a toy that does not need a battery. Of course in my day, we didn’t have such luxuries. We made our toys ourselves, and out of wood. Our parents of course had no toys because they used the wood for cooking and warmth.

Back to batteries. I am at the point where I need to start ordering them Fed-Ex and by the box load. I can see the day when I’m more worried about whether the battery guy showed up rather than the postman.

Batteries are a Catch-22. They maintain your sanity, while at the same time driving you insane.

Proof? Try explaining to your three-year-old that the new toy you took the second mortgage out for – the super deluxe combination semi-truck/construction crane/fire engine/combo rescue helicopter with every light, whistle and horn imaginable – won’t work because you’re missing one of the gazillion AAA batteries needed to operate it.

See how quickly you will tear apart your TV remote to find that battery just to appease him. Of course he will then start up every whistle, horn, light and voice recorder imaginable. And after about five minutes of this you will go insane.

And that’s why the best eggnog has liquor in it.

Another interesting fact about batteries: have you ever noticed that batteries always last longer in the most obnoxious toys? But the educational toys and neat little calculators and phones and tape and video recorders go out in 37 seconds. Another conspiracy by the toy/battery comglomerates.

It’s interesting watching my two Sons of Thunder interact with presents. Eldest Thunder Son is sort of at a quantity over quality stage. It’s a numbers game. But it was funny how what he thought was one of his coolest presents was a battery-operated tooth brush shaped like a race car. His dentist will be proud. So is the battery company.

Middle Thunder Son thought his much thought about educational toys were pretty neat, but he was much more interested in the box they came in. Go figure. All that money and he likes the box more.

But that’s all right. Because a box is just a box – no batteries – until you put it in the hands of a child. Then it becomes a race car, a space ship, an airplane, or even just something to chew on.

Why is it that as we age, a box is no longer a race car or space ship, it’s just a box to be used or thrown away? Where is it said that maturity, or rather age, requires us to lose or hide our imagination?

Personally, I hope the Sons of Thunders’ imagination grows and continues to expand as they age. And in the meantime, Middle Thunder Son, Eldest Thunder Son and I sat on the floor and played with the box. I have no idea what either of them thought it was. For a brief moment there, I didn’t either; I didn’t care and I had a blast.

And the best part was it had no batteries.


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