Over 375 Pieces!!!

Those words are the words of doom. Every father or father to be should take note. Whenever you see a toy, that looks really cool in the store and you know your boys will love it, if you see those words: “Over 375 Pieces!” run from the store empty handed. It’s a trap.

I’m sure veteran father’s who read this are already chuckling as they reflect back on that one bicycle, train set, swing set or doll house that seemed like a good idea at the time, only to discover that the toy was more a lesson in daddy’s patience than it was in the child’s fun.

My lesson came from the Techno Gears Marble Mania Vortex. I got mine from Sam’s Club at a considerable discount over the retail price. Looking at the name, and the picture, you can see that it really is quite a toy and there almost seems to be some sort of rule for fathers that if the toy has the word “vortex” in it, we have to buy it. The word “vortex” cannot be there for my boys. They don’t know what a vortex is. So we must assume it’s there for dads.

This dad bit! We had a marble maze before and my boys loved it. They would spend hours putting it together, playing with it, and then taking it a part again. They loved it so much I wanted to get them another one so they could make even bigger mazes. As most dads assume, if one marble maze is good, two is better.

But not when it comes to the Techno Gears Marble Mania Vortex. For one, my boys will never put this thing together. While the box says it is for 8 year olds, (Andy turns 7 today… so I figured it would be OK for him), there is no way an 8 year old could assemble this beast. It comes with a 58 page instruction booklet with color illustrations that even a… 50 year old man could be confused by. This toy, that I was hoping would bring my boys hours of fun, brought me hours of distress.

The moment I started assembling the beast is the moment I realized my mistake and misery. Christmas Day went from enjoying time with my family to deep and hard concentration over this manual so as to not make any mistakes. I could tell that if I made a mistake on step number 7, I would certainly pay for it on step number 43. There was no margin of error.

I also realized that once this beast was assembled, there would be no creativity allowed. It is far too complex and limited in it’s design in order to allow creativity. In fact, the best thing to do once it is assembled is to get some Gorilla Glue and turn the 375 pieces into one piece. When that thought hit me, I realized how many of our boys toys I could have saved had I just glued all the pieces together, especially specialty train sets and Hotwheels sets. They are so complex, that the sets only go together one way. Trying to vary from the designed plan and the toy doesn’t work, which makes for a bad toy. By gluing the pieces together, it will help keep the toy in working condition longer. After all, once you lose the key piece the toy no longer works.

Speaking of “key piece…” guess what? One of THE key pieces to the Techno Gears Marble Mania Vortex was missing. Instead of the marbles making it all the way down the maze, into the battery-powered booster that sends the marble back to the top, half would exit the maze half way up and scurry across the floor due to the missing piece. The disappointment that came with this realization was almost too much for the daddy assembling this forest of colorful plastic.

I set out to remedy the problem immediately this morning by calling Sam’s Club and seeing what they were willing to do about the missing piece. They wanted me to disassemble the one I had and make a simple exchange. But after working to get all 374 parts together, I wasn’t about to.

As politely as I could, I let the young lady I was speaking to at Sam’s Club know that this would not be the best course of action. She realized the plight. Obviously, she was married to a man who had endured his own toy project. She came up with a solution. Bring in my receipt and they would extract the part I needed from one of their 19 other sets still on the floor for sale. Ah yes, common sense prevailed. I retrieved the needed piece this morning before the crowds hit the stores and now the Techno Gears Marble Mania Vortex is fully functional… well, it functions as about 60 percent. My boys are still chasing marbles as they scurry across the floor. But at least some of them make it back down to the battery-powered booster.

My duty as a dad will be complete once I get that Gorilla Glue and make the Techno Gears Marble Mania Vortex one with itself.