A friend and I were talking about Lego sets, and Lego in general, and how “Lego” is a plural noun kind of like “data”, but the main thing is it reminded me I had this hand-me-down box of Lego when I was a kid:
When I was four or five and first started playing with it I didn’t have the manual dexterity to fit the blocks together very well so I couldn’t build anything big, and there were no instructions. It may also have been missing some pieces so it was a few bricks shy of a load. But I still had fun playing with it, and the pictures on the box made me laugh. Even at four or five I had a cynical understanding of advertising and I was used to most products featuring pictures of smiling people, people who looked like all their problems were magically solved by whatever was in the box when we all knew they’d be lucky if whatever was in the box did what it was supposed to.
The kids on the Lego box, as you can see, do not look happy. It’s like the photographer said, “Okay, kids, this is a fun toy and you’re having a great time with it, so I want you to look like you’re taking a math quiz you haven’t prepared for!”
It’s almost like they were trying to copy the expression of someone who’s stepped on a Lego brick in their bare feet. In the dark. On a tile floor. With a full bladder.
To be fair I probably had those same expressions on my face when playing with Lego, so, hey, real truth in advertising, and I was having fun, which is all that mattered. As I got older and better at building stuff I even got new kits, and part of what was really cool was that even though they added some new things, like minifigs, the bricks from that old kit fit in perfectly with the new ones. And a cousin who had a bunch of Lego came and stayed with us for a while and our sets sort of cross-pollinated, and about a week after he left he mailed me a small box of bricks with a note that said “I think these are yours.” I think he still had some of mine, but that was okay–I had some of his, too.
And the amazing thing is if my old set wasn’t probably taking up space in a landfill somewhere the bricks would still fit in with new sets. In a world where most things, especially toys, are expected to be obsolete in a short time it’s genius that Lego found a design that worked decades ago and stuck with it. It’s not surprising the company started in the Great Depression so they aimed for durability, but also with a hopeful attitude that creativity would keep things going, and they’re still hopeful about the future, looking for ways to make their bricks environmentally friendly and their factories carbon-neutral.
I know I’m not saying anything new or different about Lego, but then that’s kind of the point. They’re solid and reliable and better than a math quiz you haven’t prepared for.