Thursday, August 9, 2012

Grumpy Summer vacation, day 2

This morning I noticed that I only had one day of deodorant left, and so we stopped at Target. Thanks to the miracle of GPS, it's possible to find pretty much anything, anywhere, provided they haven't started doing extensive road construction since the last time your GPS unit was updated. Which, of course, they had. So we drove my cousin's borrowed truck in circles for an hour trying to buy one stupid deodorant stick.

Today we went over to a cousin's house. The original plan was for the kids to spend the day out in their yard, which has all kinds of stuff. Unfortunately, some local inhabitants had other plans.

Damnit, Jim, I'm a doctor, not an apiarist.

So we went to an aquarium instead, where we got to see the bravest man in California cleaning a tank:

Yes, folks, the fish really were in there, all cowering in the left corner. So much for using them as watch fish in my swimming pool.

And then, because the cousins outvoted us, we ended up going back to (drumroll, please) Lego Land! Did I mention that I can't wait till these passes expire next week?

Lego Land, like every amusement park on Earth, has a generic "Wild Mouse" type roller coaster. Here it's called "Technic." It's not bad, but while waiting in line you're subjected to this horrible synthetic-industrial-pop soundtrack that plays the same 30-second sequence over and over AND OVER again. Until you want to move like Shields & Yarnell (yes, I'm old). How the people who work on the ride put it up with it all day I don't know, but you'd think one of them would snap sooner or later and add "going Technic" to the American lexicon.

Lego Land sells these little plastic packets, each with some sort of collectible minifigure in it, and they change minifigure sets (16 in each! Collect them all!) every 3 months. And once they're gone, THEY'RE GONE. Never to be released again in any form.

This is what they look like.

Now, I personally don't give a shit. I mean, they're freakin' Legos! And each minifigure is $2.99 ($3.22 with tax- you learn that fast). But my kids saved up a crapload of money just to buy them here (Grumpyville has 3 Lego stores, but that's not good enough for them). Of course, each kid has a specific request: Craig wants Little Red Riding Hood, Marie wants King Neptune, and Frank wants Astronaut Soldier That Looks Kind Of Like The "Halo" Guy.

Of course, they don't actually SELL the damn things labeled, so you can see what they are. They're in giant bins in every Lego store (and there's one every 50 feet here), sealed in identical plastic wrappers. You have no clue which one is which. So your kids (and everyone elses) stand around fondling packages, trying to figure it out. "Dad, does this thing in the bottom corner feel like Neptune's trident/a picnic basket/a space rifle?" And, of course, I have no idea. It feels like a hard piece of molded plastic, okay?

You'd think they'd put a label on them, to help kids. But the store dude told me that's not allowed, because it brings down the value for collectors. Yes, collectors. People who will pay big money in a few years for a sealed plastic packet, that for all they know has a broken figure and a rat turd in it. Because what's the point of blowing 2 months worth of salary on a small plastic toy if you actually know what it is?

So, each Lego store usually has one employee with a good sense of touch who can feel around and tell you what they are, sometimes. Not always. You have a 1 in 16 chance of being right.

THEN there's the guy at The Big Store, which is the main sales place at the park entrance.

I don't remember his name. Something like Ricardo. He reminds me of Franck Eggelhoffer, the insane wedding planner (played by Martin Short) in "Father of the Bride (1991). Complete with the nonspecific accent and flamboyant mannerisms.

But damn, this guy is good. No matter what they pay him, it isn't enough. He sells his weight in minifigures every 10 minutes. He should have his own TV show.

Kids find him and ask for, say, the Easter Bunny figure, and he takes it from there.

"The Easter Bunny, yes? You want Ricardo to find an Easter Bunny for you?" And with great theatrics he walks over to the bin, runs his fingers over 200 packets in 10 seconds (he doesn't look at them- sometimes he closes his eyes for effect) and then whips one out, snaps his fingers, announces "Ricardo has found the Easter Bunny!" and tosses it to the kid. Then it's the next kid's turn. This guy has some sort of zen-Lego magic touch. Even the other employees are in awe of him.

The best part is when some kid questions him "Are you sure this is the Easter Bunny?" Ricardo claps his hands and indignantly exclaims "Ricardo is NEVER wrong!" and goes back to his next request. And, I must admit, on this and several past trips  (he draws a crowd, he's that good) I've never seen him screw up yet.

Then the real insanity begins.

Every Lego Land employee has one or more of these coveted minifigures on their name badge, and kids can trade if they see one they want. So my kids will bring some from home to do this. Marie loves to buy them in the store, pocket the accessories, and then trade the naked figure for a fully equipped one, pull off their aceessories, and repeat (warning: this doesn't always work, depending on the employee). I've actually seen roller coaster rides delayed because kids are trading figures with the guy who works the controls.

Where this makes you want to pull your hair out is when your kid just spent 30 minutes looking for a certain figure, finally gets Ricardo to find it for them, is overjoyed to have bought it, and one minute later trades the damn thing to a guy selling churros outside the store. This happens all the freakin' time, and makes me glad I brought my Rogaine.

At one point, in an exchange that had me in hysterics, I watched as Frank traded figures among 3 park employees and 4 other kids who were walking around Pirate Shores, and at the end of 10 minutes he discovered he had his original figure back, with absolutely no new accessories.

I don't understand it either.

But you know what has REALLY pissed me off on this trip? It's going to sound stupid (because it is).

They used to have this great attraction where families would race firetrucks against other families. Four families would compete in a vicious, no-holds-barred competition to pump giant Lego fire trucks across a track, aim 2 water cannons to put out a fake fire, and then pump the trucks back. You play for pride (not even a cheapshit $2.99 Lego figure, FFS) but for 10 seconds afterward the victors can bask in the glow of having won.

Hell on wheels. With kids.
Not anymore.

Now, for reasons which the staff will only explain as "an accident happened," YOU CAN'T RACE. You all try to pump the cars slowly across the track, getting to the fire at the same time (waiting for the other trucks to arrive) then put out the fires, get back in the trucks (waiting for the idiots who can't figure out how to work a toy water cannon to finish) and then go slowly back to the finish together.

WHAT THE HELL IS THE POINT OF THAT?!!! If you're going to do some manual labor at Lego Land, it should be to prove you're better at it than other families!

Obviously, it's really pathetic that this pisses me off as much as it does, and likely takes the phrase "first world problem" to a new level.

I'm going to bed now. King Neptune, Astronaut Soldier Guy, and Little Red Riding Hood are looking like they want to start a threesome, and I'm keeping them from getting it on.


Extremely Thrilling said...

i hated every moment at lego land.

jimbo26 said...

On the firetrucks , nobody must " lose " . Political correctness .

Anonymous said...

There are 3 Lego stores in your town? I won't tell my son, he will want to move there. As far as I know, we have 2 Lego Stores in our entire state and the closest one is about an hour away.

CrownedwithVictory said...

LOL'd at the fondling of the mini-figure packages! How many times have I stood in Target, smooshing and poking at one of those silly things, hoping I wasn't being videoed as a potential shoplifter...

Laura said...

Hahaha, did you use the wrong version of "affect/effect" this time just to spite me? :)

Grumpy, M.D. said...

Sorry, no. Just a hazard of typing quickly late at night. I fixed it.

Packer said...

Mythbuster alert: Ricardo has memorized the bar code coding numbers. C'mon it is the oldest trick in the carny bag.

Love to see someone decompressing on vacation. Figure by day 6 Grumpy will return to human form. Usually on day 6 that is the day I don't call the office.

PJ Geraghty said...

The fire truck races are gone? Legoland has seen the last Geraghty dime, then. That was the only reason to enjoy the sweet, sweet taste of victory over the windowlickers in the other trucks. Especially if said windowlickers were relatives.

Grumpy, M.D. said...

PJ- yeah, pisses me off, too. They told us they had too many people complain because the truck comes to an abrupt stop, and they were thrown too hard against the heavily padded plastic frame, bruising their skin. I swear. You just know some corporate legal liability person made this decision.

Georgia said...

I follow your blog and laugh out loud at the things you post, believing Grumpyville must have the highest population of stupid people on the planet. But this...this is hilarious! And I am so grateful my kids know not of what you speak. They don't know about Chuck E. Cheese, either.

OldSquid said...

I bet Ricardo spends a lot of his off time fondling packages.

Bond. James Bond. said...

Great. Now how impressed are people going to be when they see the piranha scene in "You Only Live Twice?" Just when I was getting over the whole "tarantulas are actually harmless to humans" thing from "Dr. No." Are you TRYING to cockblock me?

Moose said...

My baby sister and her best friend, P, used to work for the toy & games division of a, ahem, large company known for comic things.

P's job was answering phones for the shipping department. Now, mostly this was the Big Chain Stores calling to reorder or change their order, or check on a status of thing. But about 10% of her job was dealing with what P called The Paste Eaters.

Y'see, when some companies manufacture a crapload of toys, in every batch (and a batch is like, a mini-crapton of pallets full) will have ONE toy that is different. It's a kind of error checking and authentication thing. It's a way of checking for counterfeit and stolen shipments, too.

The Paste Eaters know this, and have made the ONE toy in each batch an expensive collectable. So they call the company, and P would have to be queried on which shipment would have the special ONE toy, which Giant Chain Store would be selling it, when would it be available, etc. etc. etc.

The scary part, she always said, was how The Paste Eaters always knew when new shipments were coming in.

(And if you haven't figured it out, she called them that because, as she put it, "You know these were the kids in your kindegarten class who were eating the paste.)

brent said...

Dr. Grumpy,

you are on vacation. with your family. you need to chill and go with the flow. It won't be long before your kids are older and find that you are no longer cool to hang with. Enjoy your time off. Granted, you are a "type a" personality, but hey, sometimes you just have to stop and play with the legos.

RELAX!!! You will live longer.

Anonymous said...

Dear brent,

I think you are lost.

Anonymous said...

....truly enjoyed the time my elementary school-aged kids came in second only to a gang of seasonpass holding teenage hoodlums.

Did you not use the people-dryers this year?????

danielle said...

D'oh.....of course the fire engines have been changed...remember, we are teaching our newest generations that EVERYONE is a winner and there are NO losers!

Marco said...

If you can tear yourself away from Legoland, the San Diego Zoo has night zoo (open until 9pm) all this month. It's pretty at sunset, and the animals behave differently in the evening (the nocturnal ones wake up, etc.)

C said...

I am too tired for your vaca this year... I may have to not read it. The multitude of lego figures is kind of exhausting me...

Anonymous said...

This post had me laughing out loud while using free Wifi at McDonald's. I can't shake the visual picture of the Lego-whisperer Ricardo and the liability-ruined-fire-race-that's-not-a-race!!!

megan said...

FYI, if you get a Lego VIP card, they will send you a promo for the newest collection of mini-figs, which lets you buy ALL of them at the same time, with a slight discount, from the website. I really, really wish I had paid attention to those emails before I went and bought a ton of mystery bags. I can't resist the allure! They're like scratch off lottery cards; lots of suspense with mainly disappointing results :)

Mary said...

This post makes me sad. I took my 10 year old son to Lego Land and Disney Land twelve years ago. We both loved it. We still talk of returning to LL. His adult brothers are still annoyed that he got to go and they did not.

Disney is something we have no interest in. Each of them have been once and all hated it. Too many people, too long waits.

Good new for us is they built a LL in Florida.

Diane said...

just wait till the kids turn 18 - you can no longer enter Legoland. Found out in the Ft. Worth area legoland that my girls wanted to go in, but we couldn't, as we didn't have little kids with us. Oh, and if you go to Boston, to the USS Constitution, be prepared for airport-like security. Although if you don't take off your watch through the metal detector, they really don't care. They just go 'eh!' and let you in.

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