Not long ago I visited the sector of San Francisco known as Chinatown. There, I discovered the most useless of all useless items I have ever seen.
It was a tiny, plastic wind-up rice bowl.
Yeah, I said rice bowl.
A plastic wind-up rice bowl.
At least, I think it was rice. I suppose it could have been couscous or tabouli or risotto…It’s somewhat of an art to distinguish between varietals of plastic grain.
The colorful plastic bowl had tiny little plastic wheels on the bottom. Wind it up, set it down, and you were rewarded by getting to see it scurry across the table. If the wheels were on straight, the bowl wobbled away in a somewhat straight line. If not, it careened in drunken circles. It made a little panicky buzzing sound like a fly with one wing. It stopped when the winding mechanism wound down, or when it scurried off the edge of the table. This was usually the end of the plastic rice bowl, as the Plastic Rice Bowl Quality Assurance department had obviously overlooked the all-important impact test.
There were four exciting versions of wind-up rice bowls to choose from - I guess for people who like variety in their plastic diets. Or, I suppose one could purchase all four and have Rice Bowl Races.
The concept of the plastic wind-up rice bowl begs the question: What the fu*k?
How many natural resources were exhausted and how many man (or child) hours were spent creating and marketing such an item? How much time was spent brainstorming, designing, building prototypes and conducting QA testing? How many meetings were held to discuss what color the bowl should be? What kind of rice should be in it? Three wheels or four? What shape should we make the windy-uppy thingy?
The plastic wind-up rice bowls (which were about two and half inches in diameter) were five bucks each. Five bucks. I can get a real bowl with real rice in it for less than that, and it won't run away from me when I try to eat it.
Although, I must admit, if more people had to chase bowls of food it would probably solve much of the country's obesity issues. Perhaps if our cheeseburgers and onion rings and chicken fried steaks came in bowls with wheels and we had to chase them around the kitchen we’d all be in better shape. And if they scurried off the edge of the table before we caught them, well…….better luck next meal.
Now that I think about it, I didn’t see any overweight people in Chinatown. Hmmm, maybe they’re on to something.
Addendum: I have just stumbled upon the wind-up rice bowl's sister product.
The wind-up walking Sushi set.
I swear, I'm not making this stuff up.