The First School Fad


I believe I may have written about this before…

Back in grade four, there was a girl who got a new set of markers. It was a large set with many colours, and she happily lent out those markers to her friends for her colouring projects. As I was something of the class nerd and she considered me to be “weird”, I was very pointedly left out of this arrangement. I was not allowed to use her colours.

However, there was an art supply store down the street. They had markers. And my mother, wanting to encourage my artistic interests, responded favourably when I asked her to buy me a few. And then a few more. And then a few more. Really, it was like that massive box of 64 Crayola crayons that first made your eyes go wide when you saw it in the drugstore (“there are actually 64 colours in the universe?!!?”), except in marker form, which was extra special since, let’s face it, markers were cooler than childish crayons. Especially in grade four.

So, I got loads of different colour markers. Primary colours, secondary colours, and far more obscure mixes. I even coined a term that I didn’t realize didn’t exist: greige (a grey-beige). My father built a nice box to store the markers in, including a window to display them all. And I happily lent out my markers to all of my friends, and all of that girl’s friends as well, and very pointedly not to her.

Well, as you can guess, this started an arms race. The girl and I both needed to update our marker collections and make them larger. Other students started investing in their own markers since, quite clearly, this was the thing to do. I’m not entirely sure when the bubble burst, but at least it didn’t involve the loss of any fortunes or an overabundance of tulips. It was just that, at some point, we lost interest in it. The ink in our markers ran out, and we moved on to other subjects.

Another fad that moved through our school was the game of Hearts. We played a lot of card games at high school. We hadn’t really gotten into the electronic age yet, and playing cards were easy to carry. The Chinese students had introduced us to a game that involved a lot of throwing down of cards and a lot of shouting; I forget its name, but as you can imagine, it was very popular. I, however, had just learned how to play the game Hearts, and I succeeded in teaching it to my group. Before long, it was a regular staple of our lunches, and other kids were playing it too. I think it’s advantage was that it was easy to understand (bridge rules for a hand; objective was to take as few hearts as possible or, failing that, grab them all and the Queen of Spades), and people were happily able to call the Queen of Spades “the black bitch”. Interest in that game lasted until the final year when we all had to knuckle down for study.

I think of these events now that I’m seeing similar seismic shifts taking place at Vivian’s school. Early in October, one child was playing with a toy where one pulled a notched cord which released a spinning metal top that went skittering across the school yard. A week after that, two kids were playing with these toys. A week after that, four.

They’re called Beyblades (or “blah blays”). The neighbour kid up the street has one, and now Vivian wants one for Christmas. I guarantee you, by December, everybody in school will have one. It really is like a virus.

Ah, well. It could be worse. This will only set us back $10. I strongly suspect my mother spent a lot more to keep me in markers.

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