It’s Time For…The Grossinator!

One of the best and finest things I’ve ever owned was a thing called the Grossinator.

My parents bought it from Spencer Gifts, the kind of store that me and my teenage hormones would enter under the pretense of wanting to purchase a black light poster while, in truth, spending yet another 20 minutes inspecting the print of Bo Derek to determine if that smudge was just a smudge or a nipple.   

As designed, a user was to press the four buttons on the right in order.  The first button produced one of about five introductory phrases, such as, “It’s time for,” “You’re like,” or “How about.”  The next two buttons provided adjectives – “a horrible,” “gross,” “smelly,” or perhaps “putrid.” And the fourth gave the object – “fart,” “barf,” or my favorite, “mmmbooger!” Put them together and you could get “It’s time for…a disgusting…putrid…mmmbooger!”  It even had a belt hook on the back, in case the owner needed to prove his immaturity while running errands around town.

This video demonstrates its function, and note that my fellow connoisseur agrees with my belief in the supremacy of “mmmbooger”:

The Grossinator’s brilliance was in its simplicity but also in its appeal to a fundamental, maybe the fundamental, part of male childishness – bodily functions or abuses that violate behavioral norms.  I can imagine a teenager thirty thousand years ago falling on his butt and tooting to the appreciative, albeit guttural, laughter of his cave-mates.  From my personal experience and observation, male evolution hasn’t progressed even one nucleic acid sequence since.

For example, I was at the playground with my son not long ago when one of his friends brought out a small foam rocket with a stand and foot pump that, when stomped on, propelled the rocket about 30 feet in the air.  After two or three “appropriate” uses, they tilted the stand at an angle, formed a line in front of it, and took turns getting popped in the groin by the rocket and flopping to the ground like a Brazilian soccer player after a phantom foul, each time funnier than the last.  After a few rounds of this, one of the moms couldn’t bear it any longer and retired the crotch rocket program.

But there is another part of the Grossinator’s appeal that I have only recently discovered, and that is the language.  The word “putrid” alone barely raised a chuckle.  Adding an introductory phrase and an object (“How about…a horrible…burp”) and I may give a few snorts.  But the best combination omitted the adjectives altogether.  “It’s time for….puke” was a winner.

In writing, I occasionally pull out “the little book,” as it is known – Strunk and White’s Elements of Style.  I do this reluctantly as I am afraid to learn how many rules I am breaking.  And one of the hardest for me to follow is Style Item #4: Write with nouns and verbs.  “It is nouns and verbs, not their assistants, that give good writing its toughness and color.”

The point is not that the craft of good writing, a clever and thoughtful use of language, is a sacred act to be approached with humility.  Clearly, the Grossinator doesn’t do humility. Rather, at the risk of explaining and destroying the joke, it may explain the reaction I had to a particular statement coming from a five-dollar toy.

Some people may prefer that I say my tastes have matured.  Certainly they have changed, but I’m not ashamed to admit that they are merely different, and not a bit more refined.

Sadly, they don’t make the Grossinator anymore.  There are other toys with the same name – one you can record your own words or sounds on, and an Iphone app that plays barfing and farting sounds.  But they lack that simple and direct way of cutting straight to the, how should I say it, mmmbooger!


1986, It Was A Very Good Year

As I sat at my desk early this morning to finish this entry, a cockroach skittered out from under the phone right at me.  I screamed and jumped back like my four year-old does when her brother sticks a green bean in her ear, knocking into the work table that holds up the piles of things I never get around to.  I would have run upstairs to get my wife to come kill it but she is out of town.  Perhaps a pounding heart, shaking fingers, and paranoid thoughts is the best frame of mind for editing this piece anyway.

I recently found an old diary and some entries in it from 1986.  I was horny, awkward, and 15.  Not so different from today (Oh my god, too much information!)  A few entries caught my attention:

July 2: I am playing the trumpet again and I am also taking lessons for the 2nd time.  I really want a beautiful woman.

July 11: We went to Six Flags today and it was pretty fun.  I am really beginning to appreciate the music of U2.

July 12: We went to the Stone Mountain laser show.  I am really getting big on U2.

July 15: I am in love with Heather Locklear.  I also got my 2nd paycheck for $234.

July 16: I watched “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” on TV tonight.  I still burn for Heather Locklear and Kathy Smith.

July 18: Me and a friend put cans in the road so cars would have to swerve.

July 19: Tonight I fell off a 12 foot high ledge and landed in the creek on my left leg.  Nothing’s broken but I got scraped bad.

Childishman’s explanation on the entries from the 18th and 19th:  Although not the dumbest thing I’ve ever done, it ranks.  Once night fell, me and my friend would drink a 2-liter bottle of Coke and went wherever the night took us.  You can see from the entry on the 19th where that place was.  Another brilliant idea we got from these moments was to crawl through the drainage tunnel underneath Interstate 285, about 100 yards, in total darkness.  But on these nights in particular, we re-filled the Coke bottle with water and placed it in the street.  When a car that was driving too fast (vigilante justice was how I rationalized this stupidity) came around the bend, the driver wouldn’t have enough time to stop before hitting the bottle and spraying water over the car.  We would watch all this happen from behind the shrubs guarding the front patio of my house.  After a few runs, we knew that we needed something more life-like so I ran inside and found the red food coloring, which we added to the bottle in hopes that the poor speeder would think they’d hit a possum or a cat.  Eventually, a driver took the bottle as opposed to leaving it on the road for our easy retrieval and re-use.  The following night, with a new and freshly emptied bottle in possession, we set our trap in a different location – the bottom of a curvy and very steep hill.  On one of the first attempts a car came when I was still in the road.  I dashed off to the side and jumped/fell over the wall into the creek below to get away – this instead of just standing on the side of the road playing stupid, something that should have been fairly easy for me to do.

By the end of the summer, I had stripped all entries that were personal and only transcribed sports scores. “Atlanta came back from halftime 20-7 to beat Tampa Bay Bucs 23-20” and “Falcons beat LA Rams 26-14 today.  Our record is 5-1 and scoring is 129-88.  NL Playoffs – Mets have 2 games, Houston as 2, AL – Boston has 2, California has 3.”  I must have felt that an adult me would really want to know all this crap.  And surprisingly, I do.