Sea-Monkeys® (and other attempts at greatness)
Do you remember those Sea-Monkeys ads that were everywhere back in the 70's? I remember seeing them in the back of my comic books-- they were amazing! If you clipped the coupon and mailed it in to the company, they would send you hundreds of Sea-Monkeys eggs. All you had to do was dump then in a tank of water and the eggs would hatch! According to the ad, Sea-Monkeys were very talented- they could be trained to jump through hoops of fire (as a naive ten year old, I didn't question how you could get a hoop of fire under water). They could be trained to walk on a tightrope, do flips, somersaults and even jump on teensy weensy little pogo sticks! They were amazing! I figured this was my path to greatness! I could only imagine how great my life would be if I had a tank full of fish that could perform circus acts! I would be the envy of every kid in a ten block radius! Unbeknownst to my parents, I clipped the coupon and mailed it in, checking the COD option as my form of payment. I knew it would take 4-6 weeks for them to be delivered, so I set about doing all kinds of odd jobs to raise the money-- I cut my grandfather's grass, I did my brother's chores (in exchange for their allowence), and I picked up lots of cans and took them to the recycling plant near my house. Within a couple of weeks, I had raised all of the money I needed. I was sure to be the hit of the neighborhood and the envy of all when everyone heard that I had real live Sea-Monkeys! It was summertime, so there was no school. I had no committments- just lots of free time. I would get up every morning and stuff my money in the pocket of my little cut-off jeans and proceed to the curb beside the mailbox, where I'd wait for the mailman. Every day my heart would skip a beat when I'd see the USPS truck pull into the cul de sac. Every day I'd ask the mailman if he had a COD package for me. Every day he said "No, sorry". He would hand me all of the other mail and I'd make the long walk down the driveway, back to the house, where I'd hand my Mom the mail with great disappointment. Then I'd return the following day and wait again. One day, the mailman pulled up- skipping the other houses and heading straight to my mailbox. This was the day!! He pulled up and I ran over to him. He said "Son, today is your lucky day! It's finally here!". He had me sign a form and hand over all of the change that was in my pocket. He handed me a little envelope in exchange. I thanked him and ran home with my envelope, leaving the mailman to put the rest of the mail in the box. I ran past Mom and into my bedroom, where I had stowed a big clear-glass vase that I'd found under the kitchen sink cabinet. I followed the directions by filling the vase with room temperature water and then I dumped the envelope full of Sea Money eggs into the water. I gave it a gentle stir and waited for the magic of life to begin. It was so cool-- the little "seeds" that I dropped into the water began to swell up and then move. There were hundreds of them- all swimming around in my vase! How cool! But how do I teach them to do tricks? There was no instruction book included for that. Maybe they were so talented that they didn't need instructions? Maybe they had already been trained to do their tricks before they were freeze-dried? I made a ring out of my grandpa's pipe cleaner and lowered into the vase. To my surprise, not one of them made an attempt to jump through the hoop. Then I remembered that they could also jump on a tiny pogo stick. I searched the envelope, but there was no tiny pogo stick included. I worked with the Sea-Monkeys for days: begging and pleading with them to do a trick, any trick! I was anxious to show them off and become the coolest kid on the block. On the 5th or 6th day, I woke up to find that they were all dead, floating on the top of the vase. What I rip off, I thought as I poured the contents of the vase into the toilet and flushed it, along with my dreams of sudden popularity.
But I did have a Plan B in my quest to be the BMOC. It was 1976- the year of America's Bicentennial Celebration. One of the local radio stations was having a contest for kids-- decorate your bike in red, white and blue and win $100. I imagined what it would be like to win the contest and the $100. With that kind of money, I'd be able to take all of the neighborhood kids to Dipper Dan's and treat them to ice cream cones-- I could have a playhouse built somewhere in the subdivision with a statue of myself near the front door. Beneath the statue there would be a bronze plaque that read "In Honor of the Children of the Georgian Woods Subdivision", with my name and the date etched beneath it. I had no concept of the value of money. I set about decorating my bike. I tied red, white and blue crepe paper streamers to the handlebars of my white 10 speed bike. I dressed in the patriotic colors- red socks, blue shorts and a white shirt. I rode my bike for hours each day- waving at every person and every car that I saw. "Somebody will notice me, they'll notify the radio station and then I'll win the prize and the admiration of all", I thought to myself as I rang the little blue bell on the handlebars. I rode my bike all around the subdivision for about 8 hours each day. I'd park it outside the Magic Market while I was getting a slushy and without even being asked, I'd tell the clerk "yeah, that's my bike out there", as if he cared or even knew that there was a bike out there. After weeks of riding the bike while smiling and waving, I heard that the contest was over. Some little red-haired girl with freckles had won. All I could think was "Bitch!".
Plans A and B in my quest for greatness had failed that Summer... Plans C through Z failed in the years to follow. I'm currently working on Plan Sigma (yes, I've moved on to the Greek alphabet now).