Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Is This the Worst Birthday Present Ever?

It looked totally awesome in the box. A marvellous contraption for polishing rocks, teaching kids not only about natural processes and turning dull rough rocks into beautifully polished gems, but then they could also turn the gems into their very own handmade jewellery. What could be bad about that?

Ah, how about everything…

When the box was unpacked my ten year old daughter eyed it suspiciously, glancing over at the outrageous monster dolls with terrifyingly high shoes and eye-popping outfits that her younger sisters had received for their birthdays. Instead, as the eldest child, she was unwrapping a pile of grown-up gifts, books, craft – things that educated and probably made her smarter, but probably rated high on the disappointing-gift register.

But this was a rock polisher. Looking like something out of a Pokemon cartoon, it contained an electronic tumbler, an assorted of rough looking stones, and four bags of grit.

What fun, I thought, as she pulled everything out of the box and began glancing through the instruction book.

A few minutes later, she wandered past, having poured the rocks into the tumbler and added the first, most coarse level of polishing sand. How educational, I thought.

The she turned it on and the entire house was instantly filled with a grinding, rattling sound as rocks bounced off plastic and a cheap motor guzzled up electricity. My smile wavered a bit.

‘So, ah, this first stage will take four to six days,’ she said tossing the instruction booklet in front of me and picking up a book.

Wait, what?

Four to six DAYS?

My husband shot me a dirty look and went to hide upstairs.

‘Yeah,’ she said mildly, ‘the whole thing should only take about four weeks.’


With a nervous twitch I picked up the instruction book and began to desperately search for proof she was wantonly mistaken.

My daughter noticed my panic and pointed out that if left up to nature, polishing rocks would normally takes years, so really, this was very quick. I wanted to point out we could probably BUY lovely polished gems from the local market for a couple of dollars and save ourselves a lot of headaches.

I did some calculations in my head. Four WEEKS. That was definitely long enough to initiate divorce proceedings, I was sure, especially given the angry stomping coming from upstairs, where the vibrations from the rock tumbler were coming through the ceilings.

Ignoring the nasty looks and thinly veiled comments from my husband over the next few days, we established a buffering system which included boxes, cork mats, piles of tea-towels and shutting doors all in a desperate attempt to block the relentless, agonising sound of that damn rock tumbler.

After a couple of days my husband spat the dummy and turned it off at the wall.

‘I have a headache,’ he moaned.

I’m the one who works from home, I thought. I have to listen to it during the day as well as the night.

My daughter was beside herself. ‘I have to reset the timer now, Dad. It goes back to the start of the four days.’

I shot my husband a dirty look. He rolled his eyes and left for work.

We established that we could pause the timer overnight, a compromise that meant that the house would be quiet(er) overnight, but it would now take EIGHT days to complete the first step.

Suddenly, about a week later as I was working at my computer at the kitchen table, the house suddenly went quiet. It took a moment for my brain to adjust to the silence. The tumbler had stopped. 

The first stage was over.

That afternoon, my daughter unscrewed the chamber and poured out the dirty, gritty water. A pile of rocks followed. She was excited about the changes she could already see in the stones. I just saw a pile of dirty rocks.

‘The next stage goes for seven days,’ she informed me happily as she poured the Stage Two powder into the chamber and set the timer. Immediately the house started vibrating again and I felt my head begin to pound. ‘This is so awesome, I can’t wait to see them at the end,’ and she skipped off to school.

We are currently at the end of Stage Two and still have two packets of increasingly fine grit to go. As per our agreement the tumbler is only ever on during the day after my husband leaves for work, so I am the only one who gets to enjoy the brain-numbing repetitiveness of the worst present ever, penance perhaps and well deserved, considering I bought the damn thing for her…

NOT worth it!

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