Saturday, January 22, 2011

It (mini)Figures

Lego is the greatest toy of all time. That’s not just how I feel, that is a fact. My fascination and awe with Lego is so massively enormous that I use redundant adverbs and adjectives when writing about it. I’m very, extremely, supremely, stoically serious.

I’m so taken with Lego, and have been since I was my sons’ age, and my love for the toy is so far above what I feel for any other (toy! any other toy, don’t worry, honey) that the Lego company could make a lot of mistakes before I would discontinue my status as a loyal customer. I recently wrote about a misplaced piece in a set my family was constructing. That was bothersome, but one piece in one 1,000+ piece set over nearly thirty years of building Lego isn’t such a bed record. Lego immediately received my forgiveness without ever having asked.

Yes, that’s the kind of unconditional love I have for Lego. I am the pet who was left behind while they went on vacation and didn’t leave enough food out for. I should be pissed and bite their leg as soon as they walk through the door, but instead they get the, “Oh my God, you’re back! I thought I’d never see you again. I love, I love you, iloveyouiloveyouiloveyou!”

One of Lego’s more recent mew developments has been the minifigures, which, if you don’t know, sell in sealed foil packs and come in sets of sixteen at a time to collect. Since the release of the first series of minfigures, I have convinced my wife that buying an entire case of sixty is an “investment” (not only do I put quotation marks around the word, I make ones in the air with my fingers immediately after typing it). But Lego is a toy that tends to attract adult nerds and if there is one thing that nerds tend to do, it’s crack codes. They love it. So, shortly after the release of series 1, there were cheat sheets online revealing which bar code on each package meant you had which minifigure hidden within. This continued to be a valid method for deciphering what was contained within the packets for series 2.

When the box of series 3 minifigures arrived at my doorstep the other day, however, I faced a new challenge. My regular routine is to sit down with my sons and separate the packets by figure. They get to then keep a complete set for themselves and I bag up two sets to hold on to and potentially sell down the road after these sets are discontinued. Yes, I am hoarding a toy meant for children with the intention of selling them at inflated prices years down the road. So sue me. If it makes you feel any better, the remaining figures (as three sets of 16 would only equal 48 out of a box of 60, you crazy math geniuses out there, don’t you love word problems?) are given to my sons’ friends, who are always very excited about getting free minifigures.

The challenge arrived in the form of a new code. Instead of unique barcodes on each packet, the Lego Company had decided to adopt a series of barely visible (and I do mean barely) raised bumps along the bottom seal of the bag. Of course, the nerds of the world had already cracked this code, but cracked as the code may have been, actually seeing the tiny bumps resulted in my sons and I bent over our dining room table, using a flashlight and constantly adjusting the angle of its beam in order to get what we thought might be a raised bump. Our normally fool-proof process had become tedious and frustrating.

Early on, I discovered that my six-year-old was somehow the most accurate bump detector. Apparently, his no-nonsense mind kept him from thinking that he saw bumps that weren’t really there. The excitement he felt over the potential of opening sixteen new figures probably also left his brain more focused than mine, which happened to be filled with rage at the time. He had a success rate of over 50% compared to my 10%. I did, however, have a 100% success rate for wanting to smash the packages into dust with a kitchen mallet.

So, the assembly line style system naturally developed. My six-year-old inspected each packet and told me what he thought was in the bag by comparing the bumps he thought he saw to this cheat sheet, then it was up to me to grope each packet in an effort to see if I could verify one of the theorized minifigure’s trademark accessories contained within. Never had I been so excited to shout out, “Ah, there’s a scorpion! I feel a scorpion!” Once I manipulated the packets enough to be certain of their contents, each was carefully placed in the bag marked with its title.

I spent most of the evening cursing the Lego Company under my breath. I was concerned about leaving unsightly creases in the packaging due to my fondling of them. My head hurt. My fingers were sore. You have no idea how difficult it is to feel the details of Lego pieces through foil.

But in the end, we had two full sets to stock away and a set for my sons to keep. Man, do I love Lego.

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