Your assignment: spend fifteen minutes writing about the fads you encountered in your school. The smaller and more local, the better. Go.
The Great Coloured Marker War wasn’t an actual war. It was more of a Cold War. An arms race. It began when a popular girl in the fourth grade was happy to pass out her magic markers to her classmates… except for me. She did that a lot. Her friends got to share, but not me, because I was weird.
So I decided to show her. I got a bunch of my own markers and I offered them out to my friends. And they took them. To further prove my point, I had to get own more markers than she did, and in more colours. There happened to be an art supply store a block away from where I lived and went to school and my mother, probably thinking it was better this than candy, was happy to buy these fine-tipped coloured markers when I asked. And I asked.
I believe, in the end, I had something close to sixty-four different colours and shades of colours. Beige, greige (grey-beige), fuschia, dozens of colours beyond the simple red, yellow and blue. My goal was to equal the box of sixty-four crayola crayons that I’d spotted in the drug store, blowing my mind away that there could be possibly be that many colours. And I think I met it. My father made me a special box to store the markers in, with a plastic window so that I could see all of the different shades.
And it incenced Natalie no end that I had more markers than her, and that my popularity took an uptick as people started borrowing colours to colour their books with. She called me stupid for playing this game, and she bought more markers that I was not allowed to touch. Fine by me, I bought more colours too. A couple of other students bought markers from the same art supply store. And somebody went and cut the nib off of my green marker. Possibly Natalie, though I knew I didn’t have proof enough to accuse her.
In other fads, I was blessed to live outside of Chinatown. Schools around Chinatown are a good place to observe fads that have nothing to do with ads on network television. A lot of my Chinese friends either had parents who owned stores, or knew of various stores where fascinating trinkets were imported from Hong Kong, Taiwan or China. Thus the Chinese students brought the neatest things to school, and started a number of fads.
Like puzzle boxes: a Chinese box that one could only open with a complex arrangement of sliding panels shifted in a certain pattern. I wanted one or, failing that, a plastic pencil box with a magnetic lid, secret panels and a lock would do quite nicely. When my Chinese friends started picking these up en masse, I pestered my mother until she went down to one of these import stores and got me one too. And then I was in with the in crowd.
And then there was that fad of Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) games that made today’s Gameboys look like supercomputers. Every Chinese kid was playing one, and I wanted one so bad, I pestered and pestered until I finally got one for my birthday. My LCD was about four inches wide by three inches tall and a half inch thick, with a gold front panel and a red plastic edge. It had Mickey Mouse (on reflection, probably a non-licensed knockoff) jumping between four chicken houses, desperate to catch the eggs before they rolled off (with increasing speed the more you caught) and smashed on the ground. By pressing one of four buttons, you took Mickey to one of the four chicken coups. You got a break at 200, an extra life at 500, and were dead by 1000. No exceptions. My highest score ever was 917.
By high school, I was less susceptible to fads, or at least the fads didn’t seem quite as cool. One thing that swept through my school at this time was card game fads. But that’s another story for another day.
What were some of the unusual fads you experienced throughout your school career?