They don’t make ‘em like they used to. It’s not a new concept, I know. But when I saw what had happened to my favorite toy of all time, the Sit ‘N Spin, I nearly had an aneurism. As a child of the late 70s and early 80s I was part of the last generation to experience a mostly unstructured and unsupervised childhood, before the neurotic extracurricular activity movement forced kids to buy Day-Timers, before the electronic revolution moved playtime indoors, and before safety helmets zapped the danger—and the fun—out of everything. We had freedom. The freedom to organize a neighborhood wide game of wiffle ball, or the freedom, if we felt like it, to sit on our asses and do nothing at all but daydream. It was better than anything that came from a toy store. Except possibly the Sit ‘N Spin.
I loved my Sit ‘N Spin. I loved it to a degree I cannot fully describe to others who don’t already know the feeling. I had the powder blue one, with the swirly rainbow stickers, though the stickers had all but worn off by the time I turned five. And I’m sure I played with my Sit ‘N Spin well beyond the recommended age range, longer than I’d like to admit anyway. But the original Sit ‘N Spin wasn’t just a toy either; it was so much more.
It was a:
Physics Teacher: Sure, I didn’t know it was called centrifugal force at the time, but I knew if I let go my ass would be upside down against the couch.
Dance Instructor: Pop off that center post, stand with your feet spread slightly, and swivel your hips back and forth. That’s how I learned to do The Twist.
Drunken Stupor Simulator: I can’t tell you how many awkward social situations I’ve avoided as an adult because of my uncanny ability to hold my liquor, and I owe it all to the countless hours I logged on my Sit ‘N Spin as a kid.
Horizon Expander: You know how they used to say if you ate Pop Rocks and drank Coke at the same time your head would explode? I don’t know about that, but if you eat Pop Rocks and drink Coke while pushing 100RPMs on a Sit ‘N Spin you will definitely open your mind to new unexplored dimensions. Trust me.
Tough Love Parent: I learned a valuable life lesson when I was eight when I woke up to take a leak in the middle of the night and sprained my ankle on the dizzy pad. My parents said, “See? This is why we told you to clean up your room.” But even then I knew they were from a different generation and didn’t understand what my good ole SNS was really trying to teach me: always keep the path to the pisser free of obstacles. This is wisdom I’ve passed on to my children, and I’d like to one day have it embroidered on a wall hanging.
So this past Christmas, when my two year-old got her first Sit ‘N Spin, I was anxious to assemble it as quickly as possible so she too could begin her personal life journey, courtesy of Playskool. That is, until I opened the box and discovered a flimsy plastic shell masquerading as the toy I’d known and loved. I believe my exact thoughts on the matter were, “The fuck is this?” My two year-old daughter, clearly as perturbed as I was by the lengths to which toy makers will go to shave a few bucks off production costs, reiterated my sentiments, “Fuhhh is zissss, Da-deee?” And since Mommy was in another room, I nodded and said, “You can say that again.” So she did.
The original Sit 'N Spin was made of some kind of industrial strength resin, possibly a Space Age polymer. Whatever its nature, it was damn near indestructible. For example, you could pick it up by its center post, and swing it in a fit of frustration over not being allowed to ride your bike to 7-11 with the other kids, and it would leave an inconveniently noticeable hole in a standard hollow core door. The new one, I'm pretty sure I could crush like a beer can. But the secret to the original Sit 'N Spin’s success was its 100% genuine steel ball bearings. I don't know what the new one uses, but it’s obvious the Playskool engineers were absent the day their places of higher learning taught friction. They should call the new one Sit ‘N—. And of course, the new one also comes equipped with the standard loud-as-shit electronic music assembly, which not only requires AA batteries, but the temperament of a Buddhist monk to keep from hurling the friggin thing through a sliding glass door. Which would only cause it to break anyway—not the door.
They even make a “Simon Says” version of the Sit ‘N Spin now, which urges children to accomplish such imaginative tasks as “spin faster” and “spin slower.” Of course, this is just one more clever method of conditioning kids to obey the disembodied voice of authority, so they’ll more readily accept the street corner Simons, already prominent in the UK. To combat this, I’ve tried to instill a sense of rebellion in my children, not against me or my wife, but against the disembodied voice of authority. In fact, whenever they complain to me that their toys are telling them to do something they don’t want to do, I always say, “Well, what’s the rule?” And, as if reciting multiplication facts learned by rote, they say, “Never obey the disembodied voice of authority.” I don’t know if I’m getting through to them or not, but it’s fun to watch.
But then I sit and watch my two year-old struggle to achieve a half revolution on this crappy imposter toy, and I lament the passing of what once was, and I mourn the fate of my future grandchildren who will no doubt be subjected to even more ridiculousness imported from China. And I worry about our society in general, because much like the Sit ‘N Spin, in many ways we too have lost our bearings (and our balls for that matter), and we’ve traded them in for a cheap plastic replica and false promises of safety, set to an obnoxiously loud tune that attempts to mask the shallowness of it all. But then I remember the world keeps going round and round, like the old Sit ‘N Spin used to, and eventually people will get fed up with the counterfeit bullshit. And then one day, hopefully soon, the masses will pick up their mindless distraction gizmos and hurl them through the glass walls of their socially engineered time-out corners, and demand a little freedom back, and a little quality, and maybe play some wiffle ball too. In the meantime, thank God for swiveling office chairs.