Monday, December 1, 2008

Why I Hate Tinkertoys

I love to play with my kids, and build stuff out of lego and blocks and Lincoln Logs. But I hate tinker toys.

Tinkertoys come in a large cylinder about 4 times the size of a coffee can, the outside is emblazoned and festooned with colorful pictures of all the things you can build: a guitar, a tank, a spaceship, a series of spiky towers connected by blue tubes.

Alas, there are no actual instructions in the can.

So I end up peering myopically at the flyer that comes with the can -- much crumpled and drooled upon by Squeaky and Fang -- trying to figure out what connects into what so we can build the Impossible Tractor with Odd Protuberances, or Flying Shit Cart, or Coal Powered Space Rocket. The pictures are tiny, the colors are not accurately reproduced. There is no way a 5-year old can figure this out.

Which brings me to some specific issues:

QA at Tinkertoy Inc. is for shit. The wooden rods are not of uniform size, or maybe its the round wooden connectors that you ram the rods into. Some rods fit nicely and some slip out as soon as you shove them in. I don't know why in 2008, the idiots at TinkerToy Labs cannot cut wood the same way every time.

Finally, when you actually build the Giant Flimsy Airplane with Wings That Won't Ever Stay On, Ever, your kid will want to play with it.

But once you have built something with Tinkertoys, the proper thing to do with it is stand at a safe distance and admire it quietly and not breathe too hard. The last thing you should do is pick up the plane and attempt to play with it. If you do that, it will instantly fall apart. And even if it doesn't, because your kid is 5, he will bang the damn thing on the doorframe when executing a climbing bank and smash it to bits. And then Daddy has to fix it. Again, and again and again.

This is no fun for anyone. We should save crappy design and lousy execution for the professionals at the Pentagon.


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