The World at Large

Moving to the US

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Zip

Luc's third birthday is coming up soon. Ever since he was 1 he has been obsessed with Buzz Lightyear, and so I resolved that I wanted to get him one. Unfortunately, he has been a little too young for a real one before now.

Santa Claus gave Luc a "soft" Buzz for Christmas 2005, but it wasn't the same. The first thing Luc tried to do was to press the big red button on Buzz's chest, and looked very confused when the wings didn't pop out. Nonetheless, the toy became a favorite. Since then, Luc has had several opportunities to play with more advanced replicas, and has shown an obsession with the character that is simply unwavering.

Disturbing as an obsession at this age may seem, I find it amazing that Pixar could design a character that could maintain such appeal for so many children for so many years. Disney seem to be aware of this, as they still sell many of the figures from Toy Story, with an emphasis on this one character.

With this upcoming birthday, and no concerns about packing lightly, I can finally get Luc the toy I've been wanting to get him for years! But which one? Go online, and you will find dozens of Buzz Lightyears, of varying sizes, features, and accessories. All I really want is a version that is as alike to the movie character as possible. But do you think such a model is available these days? Apparently not.

Watching Luc interacting with the toys for the last couple of years, I've come up with a key list of features I'd like to see:
  • Pop out wings.
  • Decent size (about 12"-14" tall).
  • Buzz's voice when you press the buttons.
  • A little blinky light (with sound) for the laser.
I've seen Luc play with toys that met this criteria, but I gather that they are now considered collector's items. So I'm prepared to take what I can get. (After all, it is just a toy. I'd like to get him a nice one, but it won't hurt any of us if I can't).

Since many of the websites I've found do not describe these features, I thought that my best bet would be to look in person. But how can I get to a store to do this? No one in our local neighborhood nor downtown sells anything like this.

Astute readers will remember that this last weekend I finally got my license. They may also remember that I joined up to Zip Cars and I-Go. Unfortunately, I need to pay for my Queensland driving record (which my sister will be doing today - thank you Naomi!) before I can qualify for the insurance with I-Go, but Zip were happy to issue me with a card straight away, and I picked it up yesterday. So now I had both motive and means to hire a car for a couple of hours!

Anne immediately asked if I could go shopping at Trader Joe's while I was out. They sell a range of things that Anne particularly likes, and they are significantly cheaper than many places. However, with a distance of about two miles, Anne has been limited in when she could purchase from them, and how much she could carry. With ice and snow on the streets she hasn't been since before Christmas.

For anyone wondering why Anne can't use a taxi for this: she has. However, the last time she tried to use taxis for shopping, it took over an hour before a cab arrived. It's a nice idea, and certainly cheaper than owning a car (particularly with parking fees of $200 a month) but not worth the aggravation. With sub-freezing temperatures the norm at the moment, the idea of waiting over an hour for a taxi is even less appealing.

So I went out, picked up the car (a beautiful Volvo S40) and drove it to Toys "R" Us. It's amazing the different perspective you have of where you live when you view from a car. Traffic signs I'd always ignored were suddenly vitally important (What?!? I can't turn left into Diversey?!?). Places which take half an hour to walk to, I was passing after just a few minutes. And most importantly, I kept going - on to places that were just too hard to get to before.

I've been proud of how good we've been by not relying on a car. We save money, it's better for the environment, and walking is good for us. But why on earth did I wait so long to get my license? I forgot how much freedom having a car gives you!

Booking

All the same, a Zip car is not the same as having a car. I had the car booked out for 1.5 hours, but about halfway through I realized that this wasn't really enough time. Fortunately, their automated telephone system was very good. It recognized who I was with caller ID, and I just had to spend about 60 seconds and press 2 buttons to extend my time for half an hour (another $5 - ouch).

Having to make sure the car is back before the alloted time is tricky. You don't want to book for too much time, since it's expensive. But you can't tell if you're going to take an extra 10 minutes here, or if traffic is going to be heavy there, or what. So there's a little more stress involved, and I'll really need to be organized with my time whenever I have one of these cars.

Regardless of these problems, at least I have access to a car now. It feels great. I'm really looking forward to getting out of Chicago now, and spending some weekends looking at Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

Buzz Revisited

So the verdict at Toys "R" Us? That place is amazing. There are sections of the toy store devoted to almost every conceivable type of toy. There is a boardgame section, a car section (Hotwheels through to remote control and ride-on cars), a Melissa and Doug section (which Anne is sorry she missed), bikes, clothes, electronics... you name it. And sure enough, there is also a set of shelves put aside specifically for Buzz Lightyear.

Buzz now comes with rocket trains, a jet bike, missile launchers, a whole miniature squad of allied space rangers, and cannons, among other things. But apparently he doesn't come with pop-out wings.

<sigh>

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