Mr. C came across an empty Lego box recently. It was a small Lego kit that can be put together three ways using the same group of parts. You can make three different Lego fire trucks with the kit; a ladder truck, an SUV, and a fire chief’s car. ‘Let’s make the ladder truck, Dada!’ he said. Problem was that the box was empty, though it did still contain the instruction manual.
Ok, I thought, I like a challenge. Maybe I can find the pieces in the Lego horde to make that Lego ladder truck using the instruction manual. What I have learned about Legos recently is that they are not really the same as what I had when I was a kid, some 40 plus years ago. Back then there were a limited variety of bricks. Sure, you could make a house, and there were wheels so you could make a car, but there was not the infinite variety there is now where you can make a highly specialized vehicle with a moving ladder and a hose. Now, there are so many different kits you can make any number of things. There’s sets to make helicopters, police cars, excavators, any possible Star Wars vehicles, even a new series that seems to be targeted specifically at girls. (As a former marketing person I wonder how those are selling.)
All of them look great, but if you loose any of those pieces, you no longer have a ladder fire truck, or whatever it is that your pile of parts is supposed to be. You might have something that looks like a red pick up truck instead if you don’t have the tiny little ladder pieces, or the rotating piece that the ladder connects to. When we get Legos we try to get generic sets that can be put together any number of ways, not the sets that have to be assembled in a certain way to make a specific item. But that just covers what we buy, it doesn’t cover all the gifts that he gets. He does really like getting those specialized sets, so I’m not about to get crazy enough to tell people to not get those types of Lego sets. But he is four and doesn’t yet come close to trying to keep track of any of the thousands of pieces of toys that are floating around the house. When I vacuum and I hear the chunka chunka of something go up the vacuum tube, I wonder what it is. Is it a Lego ? Should I stop what I’m doing and check out the vacuum bag ? I used to check a lot more than I do now. After vacuuming up quite a few different tiny pieces, I am now somewhat familiar with the sounds that various things can make. Legos seem to make a particular sound going up the vacuum. It’s more of a clinka clink clinkety clink. When I hear that sound, I sigh, sometimes I think I may swear, or come as close to swearing as I get, stop the vacuum and retrieve the piece, because I know that one little piece can make an entire set useless without it.
I think he received this fire truck set as a Christmas gift last year. The box was sitting at the bottom of his closet. We had both forgotten that he had this set, and I wonder who was more excited about finding it since I do like to put them together myself. Thankfully the instructions are still in the box, though I have also found out that Lego does post instructions online too. There are just 68 pieces in the fire truck set, how long can it take to find all those pieces ? I searched and searched for those pieces in the vast horde of other Lego parts. The special little piece that rotates the ladder, the triangular headlight pieces, the radiator grill, the pieces that make up the ladder, the clear pieces that make up the cab of the truck.
I found the most important pieces but had to use close matches for others. About two hours later, it was done.
‘The back lights are supposed to be red, Dada, these are yellow!’
‘Ok, Ok, but look, it’s done!
About 30 minutes later, Mr. C had taken apart the truck, and all the pieces were back in the swirling horde of Legos.
‘I learned two new words today from Dada, Mama!’
‘What are they ?’
‘Substitute and alternate!’
I think Ms. J might have thought the two words were something else.