That toy


I don’t usually do this, but my last column elicited quite a response from readers that I feel I have to acknowledge some of them here.

And I hope you won’t begrudge me this chance columnists sometimes grab, in recognition of their readers’ efforts, in aid of deadline-beating, and with not an inconsiderable dose of self-congratulation.

It was just about a toy made in China, really, and the English instructions (also made in China) that came with it. A good number of readers recognized the great wall I ran into, trying to divine what the accompanying “literature” meant.

Norman Catabug, whose letter found its way to the TalkBack section of this paper, recounted a similar experience he had last year, getting lost in the instructions while installing a Chinese-made smoke alarm. He has since installed it, but wonders, to this day, whether it would work.

Norman, I’m optimistic that it will, and I am told that prayers help. But what I’m more worried about, really, is whether your Chinese-made gadget will give off the international signal for a smoke alarm, or whether its innovative manufacturers have decided to make it talk, and shout a warning instead. Because how would you respond to: “Vaporous system of small particles! Carbonaceous matter emerging! Possible to conflagrate organic material!”?

Brigitte Novabos wanted to “roll on the floor” in laughter reading the column, and remembered her mother buying a Chinese-made toy a few years back, that came with accompanying “literature”. On the package, was written, in a bit of self-advertisement: “Amused! Intersting! Elicitation your wisdom!”

Maybe we should stop calling it literature, because some countries apparently take the word seriously. It’s not enough to call a toy “fun” or “exciting” or “educational”. No, that’s too prosaic to be called literature. It has to be “amused”, “intersting” and “elicitation your wisdom.”

John Kupsch, Technical Director of the Good Housekeeping Institute, of the Good Housekeeping Magazine published by Hearst Publications, found the column “hilarious”. But he hastened to add: “Other than the large comedic value, there could be something here to discuss with our readers.” He meant, of course, readers of Good Housekeeping Magazine. And so, he asked: “Is it possible to send details of the product, e.g., manufacturer, .jpeg or picture of packaging or product?”

So I did. And so to Mengkay, and all the others who were wondering whether I wrote about an actual toy or was just making things up as I usually do, I will upload a picture of the toy and the packaging to my new (and I emphasize “new”) blog, which you can visit at breakfastatnoon.i.ph.

Menchu Ponce, from North Hills, California, swore she “rolled with laughter”, literally, and had to be restrained by her daughter, who worried that the neighbors might call the police. She wrote that it was “comforting to know that the Filipino sense of humor is still alive, in the midst of the crisis confronting the country.”

Of course it’s alive, Menchu. Why do you think we keep importing toys from China?

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