Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Coaster Engineering Hell

Let's talk about the coaster construction kit I bought for Floogin Junior (not his real name). He likes to put shit together and then break it. Sounds like most 3 year olds, right? So, Jr, convinces me to buy the previously mentioned roller coaster construction kit. This thing is for 7 or 9 year olds and has like 1200 pieces. It's a fucking monstrousity. Close to 6 feet tall when finished, it is about as close to a real coaster in the livingroom as you're gonna get unless your name is Disney.

So, Sunday evening we pop open the box and scope out the pieces. All different colors and shapes and sizes and way above my pay grade. I can do this. It's for the boy. He's so psyched. Look at him, he's, what the fuck, he's playing with the bags holding all the pieces? He's gonna lose them. I explain to my son that we need to keep the pieces in the bags they came in. I told him I will pull out the pieces needed for each section and he will be in charge of them. He'll give them to me when I need them and he will help put them together. He says "ok daddy" and then he gets up and runs away. Shit. That's what I wanted to do when I saw the innards of this box. Smart kid.

I pull out the 19 pound tome marked "instructions" and open to the first page. Suddenly, I hear this cluttering clackety racket as Junior comes running back over. He's wearing his bob the builder hat, bob the builder tool belt and he's got all the tools in place and a few extra tools in his hands. "I'm ready daddy."

I'm near tears. This is the cutest thing I've ever seen. I wish the wife was around to witness it because in a matter of minutes, the boy will be heartbroken and distraught over his old man's inability to actually put this thing together.

Still, I soldier on. Page one of this book has a picture of the finished product. It's huge. I have no idea where we're going to put it. I have no idea where we'll store it while it is under construction. I'm sure I will be repairing the broken sections each night after junior and his destructive friend Zachary (his real name) rip it to shreds. Back to page one.

A nice picute of the coaster adorns the first page. The second page has a picture of all the parts spread out with a number next to each part. This is the number of each piece in the box. There's a small box in the lower left hand corner of the page that says "count all pieces and call K'Nex if any are missing."

Yeah, ok, I'm going to sit here and count out the 21,000 pieces while my son, in full handy man garb, patiently waits.

I open the bags for the pieces we need, take out the individual pieces that are needed for the first section, hand them to Junior and explain what, exactly, we will be doing.

"Junior, hand me the red sticks."
"Dad, I don't know my colors"
"They're the only sticks in front of you."
"OK daddy. These?" he asks as he hands me his toy hammer.
BONK BONK BONK goes the hammer
"No, these" I say as I pick up the sticks.
Slowly but surely I get the first section done. I look over at my son and he has taken all the track out of the box and is laying it all over the apartment.
"Don't do that. The track is the last part"
"Dad, it takes a long time to make a roller coaster. Can I watch tv?"
So it goes for 3 nights. He starts out all dressed and ready for construction and he gets bored after 3 minutes. Still, I build. I'm following the directions, piecing the plastic bits together and from nothing rises a tower. Then there are long extensions on either end. My wife is furious that this immense sculpture is in the living room during the night time and in our bedroom, safely tucked away from Zachary and his destructive hands, during the day.

For three days and nights the coaster cosumes me. I carry the instructions with me wherever I go. Partly to read up on the next sections, party because I figure it's a good workout carrying this giant fucking weight around.

Every morning and every night, I get the same question. "Daddy, can we put the track on now?"

Every morning and every night I say "soon, buddy, soon."

I see coasters in my sleep. I am forever building towers, higher and higher, never an end in sight. Until now.

Last night, around 1:30, I'm sitting in the living room, my knees and ankles aching from sitting on the floor and I am one step away from installing the motor. Once the motor goes in, it's TRACK TIME BABY!!

I can't wait to tell the boy we can put the track on. I can't wait to stop dreaming of coasters. I can't wait to get back to normal things, like eating and sleeping.

I'm so excited over the prospect of finishing this thing that I find a baguette has developed in my shorts. Ok, I had skinemax on but I was excited.

I need to put the hinges here, get those bent clip things, slide 5 spacers on a red stick and then a wheel thing and then another 5 spacers and, wait, where the fuck are the red sticks. Shit. They must be buried in the box. Let me do the other part first. I need two purple sticks, those green button like things and 5 yellow elbows. Ok, great. Got it got it got it got need it need it got it got it got where the fuck are the purple sticks.

Ok, I'm stuck. I empty the contents of the box. I emtpy each bag. I am missing the red and purple sticks.


Step one - count the pieces.

I didn't bother.

Now I'm fucked

I have a 5 foot tall frame, a 1 and a half foot tall motor housing extension, several feet of track and nothing else.

I go online and learn that K'Nex is famous for shortchanging you on the pieces. Seems there are plenty of complaints about the coaster. Not as fast as the video on the site, rickety, missing pieces etc. So what? If I can build it, my son will love it right up to the point he tears it apart. Then he'll make me build the other suggested coaster. I'm fine with that but I can't do shit without the missing pieces.

I search the internet and learn that, not only are they notorious for not including all the pieces, you need to buy the missing pieces. That seems a bit ridiculous.

So, I wake up this morning, count the remaining pieces, make sure that when I call the company, I am armed with the exact number of missing parts. Then I add a few extra, just to be sure.

I spend the morning taking my son to school and chaperoning my daughter's class to see Teddy Roosevelt's birth place. My ankle, which I sprained in a previously discussed vomit slide, is not sprained. I must have broken or torn something. Dancing on it with the kids didn't help. It's burning with pain. I walk a half mile with the kids, up and down three flights of stairs, a half mile back to school and then a half mile to my office. My ankle is killing me. I swallow the pain, turn it to anger. Why? So I can unleash the tirade of all tirades when the idiots at K'Nex tell me I need to pay for my missing pieces.

I dial the 800 number, hit the 46 different options and get someone on the phone.

"Listen, I bought this serpent coaster thing and I'm missing pieces and I can't build the fucking thing and my son is going crazy and how the fuck can you sell incomplete shit and expect people to be happy with your products and I have a blog that reaches hundreds of thousands of people (a bit of an overstatement) a month and I will spend the rest of my days talking about how you guys sell shitty incomplete toys and .."
"Sir, if you'd just calm down, give me your name, address and the missing pieces, we'll send them right out. We don't charge anything for this. We know that our factories aren't 100% accurate and we know how awful it is when kids can't use the toys they get and we send these pieces out next day air, at our cost, to ensure that the kids don't suffer."

"um, well, ah, yeah!"

So, I gave this lovely woman my name, my address, the missing pieces and I thanked her profusely. I also apologized for the tirade. I explained that I had been prepared for the worst and she sort of threw me off.
Seems she gets a few of these calls a day.

So, the missing pieces will be here tomorrow. The coaster will be finished by the weekend and Junior McFloogin will be breaking it by Sunday.

I'm so excited.

Baguette in the pants excited.

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