Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Change you can put in

*Apologies for the slight hurricane delay. If the storm affected you at all, I hope all's back to normal now.*

“I married the cheapest man on Earth,” my wife Kara said as our son Evan sat in the lifeless toy helicopter at the mall, mashing the coin return buttons.

“I’ve probably saved enough money to pay for his first year of college by not pumping quarters into these things. Besides, as far as he knows, the coin returns are the main event. He’s having a ball in there,” I said.

As if sensing an unmet potential for entertainment, Evan pointed to the slot that accepts coins with one hand and tugged on my shorts with the other.

“Put in,” he said. And with that, the jig was up.

“Who taught him that?” I asked. If there’s one thing I try to teach my child, it’s how to remain ignorant about pastimes that require money to be fun. If I have anything to say about it, he won’t find out about ice hockey until he turns eighteen.

“My parents let him ride on the chipmunk at the ice cream place, and they actually put quarters in,” Kara said.

“Put in,” Evan agreed.

As Kara and I pumped three (three!) quarters into the toy helicopter to make it bob up and down for thirty seconds, I realized that we’d just passed into a new, coin-operated phase in our lives. Evan, for one, seemed happy to be there.

At least he did at first. His face lit up when the ride started, but after a few moments, our little helicopter pilot looked focused and determined, gripping the controls like he was attempting a foggy nighttime landing. With toddlers, you often can’t tell how much they’re enjoying something until you attempt to extract them from it. The resulting decibel level is directly proportional to the amount of fun they were having ten seconds ago.

We were eventually able to coax Evan out of the helicopter without too much fuss, and in a moment we were heading down the mall towards the escalators, or, as I like to call them, the poor man’s merry-go-round. The escalators may not have prancing plaster ponies and festive carnival music, but what they lack in flash, they make up for in cost-effectiveness.

“Babe, not again,” Kara said as Evan and I rounded the corner for our third trip upstairs.

“More!” Evan said as we carefully stepped back onto the magical growing stairs.

A pleasant byproduct of Evan refusing to sit in his stroller anymore is that we’ve been freed from the shackles of mall elevators. Over the past couple of years, Kara and I have learned the location of every mall elevator in a fifty-mile radius, including the ones hidden deep within the bowels of Sears. Now we no longer have to wander down those creepy beige hallways by the forsaken bathrooms, wondering if we’re walking down the very hallway where once, many years ago, Roebuck disappeared, never to be heard from again.

At the regular elevator out in the middle of the mall, you’d be surprised how many people wait in line through several cycles to ride the elevator for no obvious reason. No stroller, no wheelchair, just a dude standing there, eating an ice cream cone, taking up space that could be used by someone who needs it. From what I can tell, our society has achieved such a level of sloth that many of us can’t even drag ourselves the extra ten yards to the electric stairs.

Now that I’ll be spending the majority of my rainy weekend afternoons riding the poor man’s merry-go-round, perhaps I should be thankful for the extra elbow room, at least until Evan gets bored and wants to do something else. Which brings me to my point: Can I bum a quarter?

You can rock Mike Todd back-and-forth until he gives you your money back at mikectodd@gmail.com.

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