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diaryland: sirilyan.diaryland.com: entry for 2000-12-17 (23:39:56)
In which our plucky young hero was fascinated by blinking lights.

When I think about the Christmases of my childhood, what I remember most is the greed.

Let's face it, there are two types of people in the world: those who remember turning into absolutely greedy, gift-obsessed little bundles of self-absorption at Christmas, and people who don't remember anything about their childhood at all. Christmas was stuff time. It might not have been great stuff, but it was stuff nonetheless.

One of the best bringers of stuff, at least in the desolate little corner of the country that I called home, was a magic book. It was a catalog, but not just any catalog. It was the Consumers Distributing Wish Book. I wish I had one now, so that I could compare the actual product with my memories of it, but off-hand, I remember the games.

Consumers Distributing was never really all that big into those new-fangled electronic diversions. You might get your Talking Electronic Battleship or your 3-In-1 Paddle Game, but heaven forbid that they should deal with Atari and Intellivision. For some reason, though, they were heavy promoters of Speak'n'Spell, and all its sad little cousins. (Speak'n'Math, anyone?) I actually got one, one year, and it fascinated the hell out of me. The thing talked! I mean, it talked! (I did mention "desolate", right?)

Mostly, the Wish Book gave you board games. I remember the elaborate mountain of Parkery-Brothery fun, classic and new games arrayed to best show off their ages-6-and-up appeal. Monopoly, Risk, Sorry, Trouble, Life... I wanted them all, baby.

Not that I had any particular reason to want them, because I really was the only person in my family who was into new board games and the only person who'd ever, you know, bother to read the darn rules. ("No, you auction if nobody buys it! Auction!" Take two guesses how a graph of "time since Doug learned to talk" vs. "number of times Monopoly played per month" looked in our house.) But there were plenty of games that we did pick up. And for some reason, a large number of them had some sort of crap electronic component to them.

One of my favorite of the games that never got played because I was the only one really into them was Stop Thief. And if you're one of those few people who remembers this redheaded stepchild of the Parker Brothers ludography (look it up), you already know why it fascinated me.

The Tip Phone.

(Oh, that probably wasn't its real name. Board game components are often given capitalized, trademarked, ridiculous names. The Tip Phone was undoubtedly got its name from the family of MASTER(TM) CRIME-O-LATOR(TM) ANALYSIS(TM) MASTERTRON(TM) 2000(TM).)

See, the premise of Stop Thief was that you were a detective tracking down criminals on a gameboard, and the Tip Phone was your special sooper sekrit crime computer. You'd ask it for tips or clues, and it'd make sounds like footsteps, or opening doors, or breaking glass, to show you where to go, until finally you pressed the Arrest button, keyed in where you thought the crook was, and collected your reward.

So as you can see, even if nobody ever really wanted to play the game, Stop Thief was an ideal time waster. Not only was it already optimized for solitaire play (just you versus the eponymous thief), it was also optimized for just pressing the Clue button over and over and over, listening to all the footsteps and creaks and crashes. Over and over. And over and over and over and over and over. And then some more.

Which probably explains why one day, the Tip Phone had a really unfortunate accident with a hammer, and my parents suddenly looked a lot less aggravated.

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