This one takes place during my family's one memorable trip to Florida in 1977 (referenced already in this tale) and my first experience with feeling totally ripped off.
It's an "I'm still kicking myself" experience and it's after the jump.
So let me preface by saying that, I was the kid who religiously filled out every comic ad. I wanted the army men in the (pressboard) foot locker, I wanted to sell grit (even though I had no idea what it was) and boy howdy, I wanted the toys. I can remember giving my parents my first communion money and a Heroes World ad filled out for every Mego Superhero I didn't have.
The only problem was according to my parents, ordering things from the United States was a real hassle. You had to go to the bank and change your money and then to the Post Office and change it into a money order, somewhere in the middle you had to fight a giant spider, it was a nightmare.
So, all of my "ordering junk from a comic book" fantasies went unrequited in my early years.
So, when the family hit Florida in December of 1977, my mind went into overdrive, I was going to be in this magical land of Cookie Crisp and Putt Putt golf courses.
My parents had us leave on Christmas morning, so it wasn't like I was going to get a ton of toy money for the trip. The US five my grandmother gave me the night before was pretty much it.
So what was my mission? a pair of X-Ray specs. Despite the fact that my father distributed "joke shop" type items, he didn't seem to carry these. They drove me mad, I needed them. I can't for the life of me remember why, I had no burning desire to see naked people, I think it was the idea that I'd never been able to find them.
The opportunity came pretty quickly, we were in some sparse Florida mall and they had a magic shop. I could take my kid to every town for 200 miles and not find a magic shop but they were so commonplace during the 1970s, that my family found one first try!
I snapped up the X Ray specs super quick and waited for one of the clerks (seriously business was good enough that this tiny magic shop had two clerks) as he was showing a customer a medicine bottle.
"This will cure what ails your wife" he said to the customer as lifted the lid to reveal a dabber was in actually, a plastic penis, both men had a good chuckle. That is, until they realized a saucer eyed seven year old was watching the two of them.
I forked over my Christmas five to buy the specs, raced out of the store and put them on.
They didn't work, at all. I guess if you squinted, you could see like, a shadow but I didn't need to spend three bucks to squint, I was and remain pretty good at it.
I tried to cover up, claiming loudly " Boy, there are a lot of skeletons walking around", which still makes me cringe. My parents probable ignored that comment but my eleven year old sister smelled BS and asked to try them.
I refused and wore them for about four hours after.
The sinking feeling set in immediately, I blew it. I was in the world of comic book ads, where Mego Teen Titans dolls were commonplace, where Toys R Us stores existed, what the hell was i doing? I hadn't picked my battle at all!
I could be playing with my Mego Human Torch doll right now!
I remember brooding in our modestly priced motel room watching an episode of "Szysznyk" as well it was yesterday. Seriously most of you will have to google Ned Beatty's short lived rip off of "Welcome Back Kotter" but I could act out that episode, it's in my mental DVR along with "birth of son" and "first car accident" so it goes to show how much of an impact it had on me.
The lesson of this has not been lost on me and I'm sure it's one of the many little weaves into the tapestry of why I do what I do. By the way, I've never owned a second pair of X-Ray specs in my life, I'm still a little bitter.
I do however, have a staggeringly exhaustive collection and knowledge of medicine bottles with penises inside. I assure you, it's completely healthy and unrelated to this incident.