Choking hazard

Toys these days are getting more and more complicated.

Last Christmas, my then one-month-old daughter received a toy, and so, dutiful father that I was, I figured I should read the packaging first, so when the time came to teach her, I’d be ready.

It’s been 9 months but I still haven’t figured it out. From time to time, I take the toy from the shelf, bring it to my study and subject the literature that came with it to another round of hermeneutics and logical analysis. This has occupied my mind since, and I’m now concerned that another Christmas is coming in less than three months.

I thought the toy itself promised nothing complicated. It’s made in China, calls itself “Magical Light” and is supposed to light up and play a melody when you push a button. What kind of light? A “different efffeet light!!!” – the extra “f” and the extra “e” and the missing “c” giving you an idea just how different it is.

What I’ve been spending the rest of my life on since last Christmas is the warning label, under the heading “Notice” which advised: “The custodian must be read it as follow.” Custody over my daughter not having been in dispute, I felt alluded to, so I read on.

“No play under 3 years children, so as to eat it.” I am not a genius, but it did not take me more than three months to abandon the idea that this was an invitation to partake of the gustatory delights of “Magical Light”, with its main ingredient, the “special efffeet light”.

“Forbidden small parts leaded into the mouth, so as to lead to stifle.” This was the particular line that I wrestled with throughout the summer months and into the rainy season.

After 10 months, I decided that it sounded like a Japanese poem manufactured in China through some outsourcing scheme that took advantage of the cheap labor. So I have since been consulting Basho and the other haiku poets in hopes of arriving at its meaning.

“No shut battery, resolve or throw into the fire.” How does one resolve a battery? There must be some Zen wisdom here, reminiscent of the poet Buson, advising us to transcend the duality of the battery’s negative-positive polarity.

And even if you cannot figure it out, who would fail to see strains of Yosano Akiko, in her rich, sensuous and erotic lines of the ancient Japanese poetic form of tanka in the warnings that followed?

“Pat attention to forbidden finger hand and clothes insert moving parts.”

“Finger do not insert moving parts gap to so as to lead to danger.”

“Do not cover head and fan with plastic bag so as to lead to stifle.”

Here was accompanying literature that was really literature, and I don’t care if you find it inappropriate that it should be waxing poetic over a piece of plastic that promises to light up and play a melody when you push a button.

Yesterday, I finally showed this to my wife, what I’ve been laboring on for the past 10 months. She began reading the packaging. Then she started laughing. She didn’t stop laughing. She was turning red and gasping for air, laughing.

And I looked at her and I wondered whether this, here, wasn’t the real choking hazard.

SunStar Cebu
29 September 2005

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