Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Guy Box

We have a lot of legos. I mean A LOT OF LEGOS. I won't say too many legos. The kids would say we don't have enough legos. But we do -- almost -- have an unmanageable amount of legos.

When the kids get a new set, they usually complete the initial construction within a day, if not an hour.  The set will stay together for a few days, at least, or a month or so, at best.  At that point, it becomes disassembled. Sometimes, this occurs in dramatic fashion. It is smashed on accident, in play, for example, as part of some cataclysmic accident or natural disaster, or in a fight, dueling factions pull and tug until the structural integrity of the lego model is compromised.  Other times, it disassembles gradually, a piece falls off here, another piece falls off there, until, piece by piece, it as devolved back to its constituent bricks.

Those bricks are then picked up.  At that point, they are rarely kept together, so the set can be reconstructed. We put them into plastic bins by color. We started with one white bin, one blue bin, one grey bin, etc. This made the task of reconstructing sets a bit more challenging. Though we kept all the original instructions, in order to rebuild a X-wing starfighter or Chima tank, we have to sift through the colored box for the piece we were looking for. This is difficult, but not impossible.

Over time, however, one white box had grown to three. Three black, three light grey, three dark grey, a box of tiny lego tires, a whole box of just windshields, a box of "lights", multicolored translucent pegs, a box for Lego Friends (a special line of "girls" legos) and elves featuring mauve and fuchsia-colored pieces, and the guy box.

This made the task of reconstructing old sets nearly impossible, because the individual act of finding each piece among all the plastic bins became -- literally -- liking seeking the proverbial needle in a haystack.  The kids are discouraged because it takes hours of sifting through bins to find a piece and so each step in the construction process takes much longer than it did during the original, right-out-of-the-box build. When the kids ask me to "play" legos with them, what they are really asking is for me to be the one to help them find the bricks they are looking for.

I remember one time when we were living in Oakwood Falls Church while I was in language training.  During language training, I can't take leave, so Elise took the kids (it may have been only Sam and Peter then) to Washington State to visit her parents.  I stayed behind and everyday after class, I would come back to our apartment and spend a couple of hours putting all the sets back together for them. When they came back from vacation, all the legos that had been in a million, tiny, mixed-up pieces were all whole and ready to play with again.

Given the sheer volume of legos we have now, I could never do that again, unless they went away for six months and I would never want them gone that long.

All the lego instructions for every lego set are also available for download online. So, when the kids ask me for a new lego, I ask them which one they want, then download the instructions from the lego website and we set out to build it with the pieces we currently have.  Pete and I had really good luck building a Star Wars B-wing this way in India. We would have to, on occasion, improvise and use pieces we had in substitution for pieces in the instructions we didn't have, but this presented an additional challenge to the build I enjoyed.

The guy box is a separate monstrosity. Each set comes with lego guys, yellow-hued men and women with identical smiles and lobster pincers for hands. We have a whole box of heads, arms, and legs. But it is also like a prop, or dress-up box for these people, because all the miscellaneous firearms, swords, scuba tanks, chalices, walk-talkis, handcuffs, and chest plates that come with the men get thrown in the box, too. The guy box is kind of my favorite box. Darth Vader, a great white shark, firemen, crocodile people, superheroes, elves, lifeguards, brown bears, ninjas, and more all live in the guy box.

I completely understand there is no substitute for a brand-new, right-out-of-the-box lego.  The bigger, the better.  No matter how many lego pieces we have, or regardless of whether or not I know where this set will ultimately end up in a few weeks or months, I completely get the thrill and excitement of new pieces and new instructions. A Friday or Saturday morning filled with the sound of fingers sifting through hundreds of plastic lego pieces is usually a peaceful one; the noise, irritating at first, can sound like shells tumbling in waves at the beach after awhile. In the end, it doesn't matter how many legos we have. We're at the point of no return now. What's a few hundred more? 

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