Monday, October 11, 2010

Zhu Zhu Hamsters: From Here to Obscurity

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published December 3, 2009] © 2009

I could feel the desperation of the sender all the way through the ether. “I promised my nephew a Zhu Zhu hamster for Christmas,” she emailed her sixty closest friends. “It’s some robotic rat-type thing and it’s all he wants. It is also unattainable. Who knew? I am begging you: If you see one, please buy it. I will pay five times cost.”

A postscript followed the next day: “Do not be fooled into buying the Zhu Zhu hamster funhouse, bed and blanket, carrier, Go Go adventure ball, spiral slide, car and garage, surfboard, sleep dome, skateboard ramp, or tunnel. They do not come with hamsters!!!”

In an instant I was transported back to November, 1983. I’d been watching the Cabbage Patch Kid mania with a mixture of disbelief and humor. That was until my then-six-year old, Rory, wrote his letter to Santa: “The only thing I want for Christmas is an Ewok Village.” (What was an Ewok? And why did it need a village?) Some two dozen calls later, I discovered that Ewok Villages were the second most unattainable toy after Cabbage Patch Dolls. However, I happened to call Toys ‘R Us just at the precise moment a shipment came in (this was not as serendipitous as it sounds; I’d been calling them every seven minutes for four days). They promised to hold one for me if I came right away. Mostly I think they just wanted me to stop calling. I raced down there fearing they’d sold it out from under me. But it was there! It WOULD be a merry Christmas at the Cratchit house after all! (My husband and I had just divorced three months earlier and things were tenuous enough with the kids. Not producing an Ewok Village could be the final psychic blow from which Rory would never recover.)

My joy was short-lived. What the advertising failed to convey was that Ewok Villages did not come with Ewoks, which were Sold Separately and alas, even less available than their domicile. I’m standing there at the checkout stand deciding, do I really want an Ewok Village with no Ewoks? when I’m practically assaulted by people hungrily demanding, “Where did you get that Ewok Village???” So, against my better judgment, I ended up with a Ewokless Ewok Village, a small fortune in Ewok substitutes (Chewbacca, Luke Skywalker), and to add insult to injury, assembly was required!

On Christmas Eve, as I tucked Rory into bed, I said, “I wonder if Santa will bring an Ewok Village?”, and waited for his little eyes to light up with anticipation. He yawned. “Kevin has one. They’re really boring. What I want is a chemistry set.”

He ended up playing with it for all of three minutes. So after all that, I ended up with a useless Ewokless Ewok Village.

Enjoy your moment, little Zhu Zhu rodents. You and your pricey peripherals are headed for Furby obscurity, Tickle Me Elmo anonymity, Chia Pet purgatory, sooner than you know. In the meantime, if anyone is interested, I just happen to have an Ewok Village - like new!

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