Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Rainbow Loom

Just when you thought that video games and smartphones were going to render an entire generation of youngsters completely socially retarded, I may have found a glimmer of hope. I think I just came up with a way to save them from themselves. It involves sweatshops and forced labor. We’ll get to that in a minute.

I volunteer in Son Number One’s third grade class every week. By “volunteer,” I of course mean that my wife forces me to go. Any healthy, sane, adult male would never enter a room full of 25 eight and nine-year-olds willingly. The other day I took the Xanax she provides me to steady my nerves, and in I went. I was tasked by the wide-eyed, frazzled-looking teacher to help the children with their subject and predicate worksheets. Being a professional writer, I had to quickly Google what the hell a predicate was, and once I re-learned that, I was ready to help them. The assignment was to come up with a subject to go with the provided predicate, and make a complete sentence. For instance, if the predicate provided was “jumped into the lake,” you would provide the subject “I,” or “The frog,” and then write the sentence “The frog jumped into the lake.” Simple.

Most of the children came up with subjects for all the different predicates that you would expect, such as “Sally,” “My sister,” “My mother,” “The boys,” etc. One kid, however, was on a slightly different wavelength than the rest of the class. When I went to correct his worksheet, I thought at first he might have been writing in some language other than English. The first subject he had come up with was Ratblaster1879. The next one was MegaMinecraftOne, and so on. After a second, I asked him, “Are these user names for video games?”


“OK. Can you please sit back down in your seat? Everyone else was going with things like actual people and actual animals. MonsterBattle595 isn’t really a very good subject. It isn’t even English, actually, without the spaces.”

“How come your son doesn’t have any video games? I asked him what he had and he told me he didn’t have any at all. Do you really not have any video games at your house?”

“Nope. None. Can you please sit back down in your seat?”

“Why not?”

I fought off the urge to say, “Your worksheet here is the reason,” and instead just went with, “We don’t like them very much at our house. We have books instead. Can you please sit back down in your seat?”

He just stared at me blankly. I don’t think his little eight-year-old brain full of far-too-rapidly-vibrating electrons could comprehend a world without hand-held controllers and 950 gigabytes of input per second.

Hmm… This kid is not going to be able to carry on a normal conversation in a few years if his video game habit keeps up. Which brings us to my plan…

The glimmer of hope I have found is the Rainbow Loom. It seems to have the same transfixing properties on children that video games have, but without the negative side effects. If “looming” has not hit your town yet, rest assured that it is looming right around the corner. The Rainbow Loom is roughly 59 cents worth of plastic that sells for $19.95 at a store near you. It consists of 3 rows of pegs, 39 pegs in all, that you stretch tiny colored rubber bands over, weaving them into ornate patterns by hooking and unhooking them over each other with a 10-cent plastic crochet hook. Add a 1/2-cent “C” clip to hook the ends together when you’re done, and voila, you have an ornate bracelet made out of rubber bands.

My boys got their little plastic loom on Saturday, and have made approximately 300 bracelets in four days. I consider it to be a pretty decent use of their time, since it is a craft, and since it enhances fine motor skills. Also, I now have some pretty killer rubber band bling on my wrists. You’re jealous. The only problem I can find with looming is the expense. Apparently, rubber band looms are like computer printers. The initial cost of the device is low, but the ongoing supplies are expensive. In fact, the little colored rubber bands make printer ink look cheap. My kids are cranking though about $2000 worth of rubber bands per minute. Add into that the inevitable vacuum cleaner repairs in my future when enough of the little bands get sucked from their hiding places and wrapped around the beater bar, and looming might be a bank-breaker.

The negative financial aspects of owning a Rainbow Loom are not the glimmer of hope I spoke of earlier. The glimmer came when my wife first used the word “crochet” to describe to one of our sons what he was really doing when he hooked together the individual rubber bands to form a braid. Wait a second, I said to myself, these boys are learning to crochet with this thing?

Dollar signs lit up in my head. Not the outgoing dollars signs from the apparently gold-plated little rubber bands, but incoming dollar signs from my brilliant, partially formed new plan. You see, my wife is a lightning-fast crochet-er. She can whip out a baby blanket in a few short hours, and if you gave her a few days and enough yarn, she could probably make you a boat cozy. She runs the hook without even looking at it. She also happens to be pretty impressive with a sewing machine.

Kids get the hang of bracelet making in no time on these plastic looms, so why couldn’t they just as easily learn to crochet a blanket, or a sweater? And if crocheting comes so easily to them, why couldn’t they run a sewing machine with a little instruction? The Rainbow Loom has the magical power to keep them mesmerized and busily occupied for hours, so why wouldn’t kids have just as much fun sewing together a pair of knock-off designer jeans?

Just think of all that positive creative energy that could be channeled away from video games and silly rubber band bracelets and put to good use making counterfeit clothing that I can sell on the black market at a ridiculous profit. Simple. I am off to get 30 or 40 used sewing machines and supplies. You can send your kids over after school on weekdays and all day on weekends, and we’ll have them back to you before bed time.

Freedom from mind-altering video games, learning a new skill, and no more rubber band expenses should be payment enough for their time, don’t you think? Plus, I will read them classic literature over a loudspeaker, expanding their brains while their little fingers work to make me millions. It’s a win-win-win.

That kid in Son Number One’s class can thank me later.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2013 Marc Schmatjen

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