You’ll Never Bowl a Googly Playing Alleys

For 30 plus years of my Omaha working life I was a member of a dynamic community college Instructional Design Service team; for the last 15 or so of those years I held the esteemed position of Director of Technology Enhanced Learning. To be a successful team member I knew I had to commit to monitoring, and assessing, trends and developments in instructional pedagogy; how else would I be able to analyse and evaluate emerging trends in the design and delivery of technology enhanced learning? As the internet matured and reached adulthood I discarded paper periodicals and journals, and devoted endless days to following the maze of interconnected technological pedagogical theorem links. I became a virtual gatecrasher of online ed tech and consumer technology expos. Some saw my web activities as mindlessly surfing the Internet, but I saw them as creating habits that would deliver sensory and cognitive stimuli to my brain during retirement.

image source:jmcadam

It could be said that spending an extravagant amount of one’s retirement surfing the web to discover conferences, trade shows, and festivals is a frivolous, and mind numbing, waste of time; but there is a hidden reservoir of scholarship waiting in the cloud for an old timer. Hours seem like minutes when you come upon the The World Toilet Summit & Expo, the LEGO World conference, The Annual Celebrity Impersonators Convention, Twins Day Festival, and the other fascinating conventions and expos that the internet teems with. How else would you become aware that Flashing Frenzy was predicted to be the must have toy of the year?; it was just one of several poop focused game at the 2018 American International Toy Fair. The Flushing Frenzy boxed game comes with a toy toilet tank, a toilet bowl, a plunger, the pooper, a dice, and 10 tokens; no assembly or batteries required. It’s a simple enough game to play. Players flush the toilet handle to roll the dice, and to see how many times they’ve got to plunge the bowl. The exciting part of the game is waiting to see if the soft and squishy latex body waste sample, aka the pooper, will come flying out the top of the toilet tank. As a player you have to be alert, and ready, to catch the flying, body waste, sample. If you catch the escape velocity flying pooper in mid air you get two tokens; it’s one token if you snare the pooper on the table as it bounces around. Whoever has the most tokens when the 10 tokens have been dished out wins the game.

image source:washingtonpost.com

Reviewer: It is really easy to play: roll the die, using the number on the die you plunge the toilet, and then wait for the poo to pop out. I have to say it is a bit jarring to see this poo shooting out the top of the commode going warp speed. How does one catch that poo when it pops out so fast? Then it bounces around until one of the kids grab it up for the point.
Another Reviewer: I think one of them must have used the plunger too hard because the locking mechanism that keeps the poo down broke. Once that happened the toilet portion of the game became useless. I was forced to become the toilet myself. I would hold the poo in my hand and throw it for them randomly. So we still had fun without the toilet portion.
Different Reviewer: Lost the poop. I think my kid flushed it. Wish it came with back up poop. One poop not enough. Two poops would have been more satisfying.

The more I read about Flushing Frenzy the more it hit home that it was a game of big laughs and big flushing fun to play. I decided that it would make a great summer backyard drinking game; instead of players winning tokens they’d have to chuck back a coldie or two if they snagged the pooper.

It’s that time of the year in Omaha when mornings are being warmed by the gentle spring heat. There are tight buds on the forsythia and the dogwood branches are straining to open; summer will be arriving soon. And so I headed off to the local superstore for a Flashing Frenzy. I lost count of the time I spent going back and forth, and up and down the toy and game aisles. I rummaged back in, and behind, the neatly stacked game boxes searching for a Flushing Frenzy; as my searching grew more hopeless I became inconsolable. In desperation I took hold of a Toilet Trouble. It wasn’t no Flushing Frenzy, but it did have it’s own merit; it had the same amount of built in suspenseful energy as Frenzy. Imagine playing a game when you don’t know which flush of the toilet handle will cause the gush; and whoever gets sprayed with the gush is out of the game. I mused over the possible strategies of playing Toilet Trouble, and I mused even more over the different liquids you could use for the gush flush.

image source:jmcadam

As I left the superstore I started to wonder why a game designer hasn’t come up with a toilet game inspired by the aeroplane toilet. I think the game would have to be played in a very small space; a wardrobe or the small area under the stairs would be ideal. The playing area floor would have to be moist and sticky with a few small puddles. What if you combined the soft and squishy latex pooper from Flushing Frenzy with the flushing toilet from Toilet Trouble. Players would roll a dice to see how many times they’d pump the flushing handle to create a vacuum; not every flushing would create a vacuum. If players heard a thunderous sucking sound and a swirl of mysterious blue liquid squirted into the bowl, they’d all wrestle for the squishy latex body waste sample on the moist and sticky floor. Whoever snags the pooper has to throw it into the bowl to attempt to score; if there’s a loud muffled thwump and the squishy latex pooper disappears with the blue liquid, then the pooper thrower scores a point. If the pooper stays in the bowl the player has to sit out the next vacuum flush. It’s hard to imagine that type of hilarious excitement happening in a wardrobe; it would be like gunpowder in your veins.

image source:okdiario.com

When I was growing up we didn’t have toilet-themed or body waste games; all we had was, a bit of energy, imagination, an old cricket ball or footie, fresh air, a bike, and the mates. We played our games in the street and in the backyard; in the nearby laneways, or on the grassy areas of the Strand. On weekends we’d spend hours just riding our bikes around Williamstown. Mum never seemed to care where we were, or who we were with; her only rule was that we had to be home before five o’clock to get ready for tea. On rainy winter Saturdays, if I wasn’t making dams or rivers in the street gutters, I’d sometimes play Snakes and Ladders or Fiddle Sticks with mum in the kitchen. When we went up the street to nanna and granddad’s place I’d play Draughts or Chinese Checkers. I never won at Chinese Checkers; I spent more time coveting the glass Checkers men than I did concentrating on a game plan. I longed to have a couple of nanna and grandad’s Chinese Checker alleys in my alley bag. They were smaller than the average alley so they’d be the perfect go-to when you called changers. If I wasn’t playing end to end footie on the Strand with froggie, butch, oichi, robbo, and the rest of the boys I was playing killer, or some other game of alleys, in the laneway behind oichi’s place; winter was when you played alleys. We never called them marbles, they were always alleys.

image source:yours.co.uk

I kept my alleys in the bag mum made from one of her old sheets or pillowcase; it was a small pouch with a drawstring. I had the usual collection; clear cat’s eyes, aggies, ball bearings, and sometimes a tombola. I was never really good at alleys. Whenever we played keeps I lost most of my cat’s eyes and aggies, and I rarely got to keep any of the other player’s alleys. I’d buy my cat’s eyes, aggies, and clearies with my pocket money, or the refund from Tarax bottles that I’d found on our bike rides around Willie. Most of my ball bearings were scavenged from my bike; the small ones from inside the hub of the front wheel, the slightly bigger ones from the pedal crank. And I only got my tombolas by an unequal swap; a couple of cat’s eyes, a few agates, and maybe a cleary for a tombola.

I always envied how froggie and oichi shot their alleys; they’d make a fist and then put the alley on top of their index finger and in front of their thumbnail. They’d rest their outstretched, first two fingers of their other hand on the ground, support their firing hand on their raised wrist, and then aim and release their alley by flicking their thumb; no matter how much I practised the froggie and oichi way, my alley would fall out of my hand or just dribble off to the side. I could only shoot by making a fist and putting the alley in the fold of my first finger in front of my folded thumb, and then flicking my thumb. My alleys never went far, and they moved with the velocity and force of a one-legged bloke kicking a footie. I liked playing alleys if we played knuckles down, and no keeps and changes; that’s when my extra small ball bearings were worth their life outside of the bikes front wheel, and the extra large tombolas were worth the unequal swap. Most time we played no changers and knuckles up.

image source:tyeeoutdoorexperience.com

I think I should have a Saturday afternoon “playing alleys in the backyard” party; no keeps or changes, or knuckles down though. A couple of slabs of tinnies should do for refreshments. With all the promised thumb action I’ll probably need to get a good thumb massage a few days before the party so the thumb’s feeling good and smelling of patchouli.

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