Posted by: robinsonwarner | July 17, 2008

Power Wheels: a memoir

I’m not an avid viewer of Nickelodeon anymore and I don’t necessarily frequent Saturday morning cartoons unless I’m really hungover, but I can’t recall the last time I saw a commercial for Power Wheels.  Everyone remembers Power Wheels where you could ride around, at a blazing three and a half miles an hour down your block to your best buddy’s house with the efficiency of ninety year old woman with a new hip and a nasty case of the gout.  But the invention of the Power Wheel, which ran on a relatively sizeable battery or 25,000 D batteries, really rammed home the point that doing something else, like riding a bike was not only for people who were not ninja-commandos from the future who wielded Uzis, but it was totally for pussies. 


I’m fairly sure it was at this time in the late 20th century that the large influx of gummy candies and Nerf dart guns were also coming into fashion.  Feast your eyes upon this chaotic scene:  Two six year olds ravenously consume Gushers and Dunkaroos, become sugar induced lunatics, grab their small arsenal of Nerf weapons and hop in their Power Wheel.  What do you think these young boys are going to do:  Discuss the finer points of eating crayons?  Fuck no.  These kids are going to do drive-by shootings on the neighbor’s cat or the cootie-fest of a tea party that was taking place at Suzy Derkin’s house up the street.  The drive-by may have been something that began with mobsters in the 1920’s and 1930’s, perpetuated by gang violence in Los Angeles, but white, six year old suburbanites added a new twist:  drive-bys on drugs.


Now for a while Power Wheels was exclusively a toy for males; not unlike voting ballots, mathematics, and rational thought.  But as it turned out, little girls liked driving around too, but perhaps not as spine-ripping ninja commandos.  So of course Mattel, fresh off destroying the female psyche for fifty years with the anatomically impossible Barbie, decided to capitalize on the market by getting into Power Wheels as well.  There were now two demographics of people who wanted to drive pink cars:  pimps and six year old girls.  It was at this point that little girls began “driving” around and there was true equality for little girls.  That is, until they got into the work place.


But why is this interesting?  Well if not for the mere reason that Power Wheels disappeared completely, but also explaining why they disappeared.


What happened was that Americans started getting bigger and fatter.  There is a fairly substantial issue with obesity in America this day and age.  If you don’t believe me just take a walk down any aisle of any grocery store anywhere in America.  For example, cereal, which for Christ sake wasn’t sugary enough and was totally unappetizing beforehand, has been made sugary.  Compounded with the blitzkrieg lifestyle of an average American eight year old, they no longer have time to spend five minutes and eat a bowl of Cheerios or Frosted Flakes, and also because it isn’t delicious enough.  What did General Mills do?  “Put that fucker into a candy bar,” they said!  Cereals have now been packaged into bars with “milk” in the middle.  And by “milk”, of course, they mean “frosting” and “shit”.  I’m sure it is a great source of calcium in the same way shooting oneself in the thigh is a good source of blood.  It doesn’t mean it’s good for you.  This is just one of the small problems.  I’m sure next week Corn Flakes will have a new label on it that states, “Now with real pork!”


So kids got fat, Power Wheels could no longer take the weight of these ever expanding children, the batteries drained more quickly and Power Wheels became more like real cars, except nobody was making out in the back of them.


But if you want to know the real reason why kids became fat as well, along with the rest of America, you need not look any further than an all you can eat buffet. 


As Americans, we have lots of freedom.  We’re talking so much freedom, that we can’t even fit all of it into our Escalades.  With all this freedom, we have free time.  With free time comes boredom and what better way to remedy boredom than to just make another enjoyable part of the day longer, more extravagant and more voluminous.  This is where the all you can eat buffet comes in.  The buffet is a terrific metaphor for what we believe the world is to us.  We can take and take and as long as we don’t explode, we have the right to possess it as long as we’ve earned it… or digested it.  This is the way we have treated the world for the past three hundred years, taking and taking while the rest of the world has very little.  Just because we can take all of this food from the buffet, doesn’t mean we should. 


It is the idea of the buffet that makes Americans drool as we are always looking for bargains, so it is important that we get our money’s worth by eating as much as humanly possible.  It is the only way that an average, everyday American can fight terrorism by exercising our freedom to eat as much as we fucking want.


I’m sure obesity is a bit more complicated than that, but the buffet was a pretty large step forward for American obesity… as well as diabetes.


The all you can eat buffet is the food equivalent of internet pornography:  There’s variety, you can find it virtually anywhere, and you always covered in gunk when you’re finished.  Oh I know, that’s disgusting, but it’s completely true.


The amazing thing about buffets is that everyone is practically twitching to get to the cheesy broccoli and they’re aware that everyone else is as well.  People then get flustered in the buffet line and speed through it, missing the cheesy broccoli entirely.  Because that’s the only way we can eat broccoli, which is rich in vitamins and nutrients, by throwing some queso on that bitch. 


And you have to speed through because you don’t know if the heavy breathing fourteen year old with the Battlestar Galactica t-shirt behind you brought his steak knife with him to poke you in case you slow up.  It is for this reason that people always end up getting things that they don’t want.  You show up at the table with water chestnuts, brussels sprouts and cottage cheese. 


On a side note: nobody likes brussels sprouts.  Stop trying to be different.  They are not the food equivalent of listening to indy-music, shopping at Whole Foods, or boycotting Wal-Mart.  If you want to seem older and cooler, smoke a cigarette like everybody else.  No one thinks you’re cool.  And let’s be serious, sushi is the food equivalent of indy-music.  Get with the program.  Only communists and high school guidance counselors like brussels sprouts.  Honestly.


It also doesn’t help that the sneeze guard is built for humans that probably lived next door to Moses.  Not everyone is 5’2, Pizza Hut buffet.  I don’t like having to do Pilates regularly to be in the proper shape to get to the bacon bits.  You know where you have to lean your hand and arm in while also managing to bend your neck and back all the while holding your plate and managing to not aggravate the masses behind you.  Then again, if I was doing Pilates all the time I might not be the kind of fat-ass that would go through all of that just for bacon bits.  Life is confusing.


In conclusion, the overarching point is that Power Wheels has disappeared forever into the evanescent mist of toys-that-were-good-in-theory-but-buffets-ruined-them.  I suppose children will have to do the unspeakable:  walk places or ride their bikes.  It is tragic to think that a whole generation of children will not know the joy of wind not blowing through their hair as they careen down South Street at 4 miles an hour.  That is, until the battery runs out. For now though, it’s time to play with my Nerf gun; my roommate just showed up with Gushers.






  1. this is the best one so far as of 7/18/08… lots of laughs keep up the good work

  2. […] My upbringing was ultimately perfect save my mom’s unwillingness to let me watch The Simpsons, buy me a Power Wheel, or wage an all out war on […]

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