I like to shop at ThinkGeek.com, though I often I have to talk myself out of buying stuff I see in the pages there. To quote my friend Carol Kocian: “Wow! Neat! That’s the coolest thing I’ll never buy!” on a recent ThinkGeek item I posted to my Facebook wall. Self restraint is a good thing; it teaches me spiritual discipline, to reject the life of shallow materialism, and on a practical note, I don’t end up with a basement full of TaunTaun sleeping bags. This Christmas, Thinkgeek offered up an item that was eminently affordable, amusing yet practical, and as a bonus, it offered up a surprising life lesson at the end of the day– at no extra charge.
I’m talking about the ThinkGeek Puzzle Gift Card Vault, of course. Only 4.99 for sheer deviltry in a plastic box. The concept is quite simple. The vault is shipped in an “Open” state. One simple opens the vault, slides in up to three pristine gift cards into the vault, and then slides the plastic toggle to “closed” state. This releases a tiny metal bb into a clear plastic maze that is over the card itself. One has to simply follow the maze until the ball drops into the “Unlock” position, and slide the toggle back to “Open”. Sound easy? Well, it is, if you are patient enough. The puzzle is slightly more challenging then a standard crackerjack toy in that the sides of the box add a second layer for the ball to drop into, then back up again, which can insert the ball beyond a barrier in the main puzzle. A nice three dimensional add-on, as it were.
My intentions were serene when I gave the kids gift cards in the card vaults– to add a little humor and a soupçon of challenge to what has become an otherwise routine, almost banal pastime: exchanging gifts at Christmas-time. Instead of the pro-forma “what did Santa leave you in the toe of your stockings?”, I now had a REAL CHALLENGE!! The results were interesting. ONE child took the puzzle apart with contemptuous ease– patiently looking at the puzzle, deducing the path that needed to be followed and consequently solved it in about 7 minutes max. The OTHER child, by contrast, rapidly lost patience (even though there were 3, count ’em, THREE gift cards contained inside). The ball shakily moved through the maze, the recipient got increasingly impatient and frustrated.. shook it furiously, and threatened a teenaged tantrum. “Oh well, I’m done.. I just won’t use it then!” followed by “This…. is soooo mean!” Then, dare I say it, a little snuffling. Well, both myself and the other child present felt a little bad about that, and an offer of assistance was granted. As you might guess, the puzzle was solved in point-blimfark.
And what did we learn here today, kids? Later, I was complimenting spawn number 2 in abstentia for rapid puzzle solving ability and gently chiding spawn number 1 for a perceived lack of patience. Spawn number 1 interjected and said:
“But I solved it too, you know”
“No you didn’t! It had you reduced to tears!”
“Exactly. I solved it by crying until Spawn #2 felt bad enough to solve it for me!”
“WHAT!? You did that on purpose?”
I was a little floored by that, but realized this spawn was correct. That was a solution. Perhaps not one I would follow or even think of– I’d take a hammer to it before I’d admit defeat. Yet, it was, in its own peculiar way, a method of solving a puzzle. When I mentioned this method to Spawn 2, the response was red-faced embarrassment and anger: “Dad, we got used faster than one ply toilet paper!” The suggestion was made to take all three cards back and lock them in the vault and force Spawn 1 to solve it without assistance of any sort this time, but I refrained from resorting to the Code of Solomon. Spawn 1 had, after all, arrived at a solution. Such a Machiavellian maneuver from one so young!
- ThinkGeek Hits 12! (geardiaryd.com)
- Geek Toys : Svetnashki Optical Puzzle (thinkgeek.com)
- Did You Get Another Gift Card You’ll Never Use? (fisilis.wordpress.com)