GateHouse — The competition is pretty ferocious, but the most uniquely ridiculous of the forehead-smackingly silly fads to sweep in and out of my junior and high schools were these rubber watches that came as part of a Burger King value meal, something with a hork of meat and a fry pail for $4.59 or whatever.
Technically speaking, these were less “watches” than small tires worn about the wrist; they were forged from rubber, required about two square feet of arm space, broke when you touched them, attempted to fix them or looked at them in a way they found aggravating and came in four exceedingly homely colors (“Collect them all!” shouts a heartbreaking 1989-vintage ad on YouTube). Needless to say, the eighth-graders of Taft Junior High collected them with the over-perspirating desperation of Apple first-adopters for reasons that I’m sure remain baffling to this day to the teachers and administrators, who probably spent some percentage of valuable education time wondering whether it was necessary to legislate a crappy-looking China-produced $2.49 piece timepiece from a company whose most successful prior business venture came from adorning a theoretical filet of “fish” with a flash-dried slice of what no one could disprove was cheese.
The Burger King watch fiasco was the most inexplicable, but hardly the only, fad of inscrutable origin to crash my school years, which occurred in the Midwest during the exceedingly fashion-unfortunate era of 1988-1993, meaning we got — and if there any Region veterans out there, please add to this incomplete list — the renaissance of pegged jeans, the unstoppable rise of acid-washed jeans, Zubaz pants, Hammer pants, Hammer/Zubaz Striped Bears-Logo-Print Pants You Could Also Use To Store Your Tractor, Hypercolor T-shirts, garments produced by the classy and authentic Italian style merchant Cavaricci, Trapper Keepers that were covered, every last inch of them, by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, bracelets-you-slapped-on-your-wrist-and-they-became-bracelets-and-also-left-a-welt and, this is true, yo-yos. I remember, very clearly, the feeling of genuine discomfort known only to those who have sat in a pre-algebra class with what has been declared a subpar yo-yo.
I bring all this up because a few weeks ago, my kindergarten-age son came home announcing his immediate intention to venture to Walgreens — accompanied by one of the car-driving adults in the family if necessary — to obtain a package of rubber bands shaped like vehicles.
For you losers, these would be Silly Bandz, the current compulsion in grades K-8 (at least, I guess) that’s briefly drawing the youths away from teen vampires and compelling adults to ask the well-worn parenting question, “So, wait, in order for you to be cool we have to go to CVS?”
Silly Bandz are collected, traded, swapped and hoarded; they’re, as near as I can tell, sort of like Pokemon cards, except with less of the discarnate fear that you’re throwing sackfuls of cash into a roaring wood stove. Because Silly Bandz, despite being silly and pluralized with the Z, much like Zubaz pants, come at the hard-to-mope-about price of something like $1.99 for a million. (Seriously, the kids are collecting rubber bands. With any luck this will launch a nationwide Office Supplies Craze and I can get rid of all these replacement staples I’ve been hoarding.)
Related, sort of
- Burger King uses cheap lettering, lunch meat to deny flame-broiling of planet Earth
- BK Flame: Fire meets desire meets a light, constant nausea
Anyway, after, of course, driving to Walgreens for the stupid rubber bands, naturally, two things occurred to me:
- It’s his first pointless peer-pressure school fad! Which actually made me more reflective about the marching of time if anything, and
- The markup on creatively molded rubber bands must set some sort of non-petroleum based Sheer Profit Record, I have to imagine producing such a complex, difficult object must cost somewhere in the neighborhood of 1/8 of a chicken in the Chinese sweatshop from which they originate. I’m not here to besmirch the quality of Silly Bandz, but my son’s first pack was emblazoned with a sticker trumpeting that they were of the GLOR IN THE DARK variety, which confused him tremendously. “Dad, how do you spell ‘glow?'” he asked me, a touch of incredulity in his voice, my young budding copy editor/person who will hopefully not have to put up with too many more of these in the next few years, especially the Cavaricci.