Thursday, April 28, 2011

Submarine Races and Other Things I've Fallen For

Yes, the links are safe, and you need to click on them for this post to make sense.

Ok, readers, raise your hand if you've ever been gullible. No, your other hand. I'm just kidding; raise the hand you raised first.


Other than just now, have you ever been gullible? Ever felt truly duped? Of course you have. Some of us, however, were born with a specific, yet-to-be-determined, malignant gene that allows us to be taken very special advantage of. I was apparently born with it, along with a backup gene for it.
Gullible would truly have been the perfect name for me. I'm still considering the legal switch over to it, so when I write my memoirs, they can be oh, so cleverly titled, Gullible's Travels.

Here then, is a list of the things that have made me the perfect foil for P.T. Barnum, with appropriate explanations as needed:

Santa Claus

You may think that we've all been duped by this sneaky, rosacea-suffering gift giver. And most of us have. But you stopped believing in him when you were nine or ten years old - twelve on the outside, at most. Try this on for size: 14*.
Was it because I wanted presents, and the ones from Santa were better? Hell, no! It was because Santa needed to be real. What good is he if he's fake?
So, yeah. Santa. Chunky Bastard.

Submarine Races

This one really pissed me off. I spent my summers in the (formerly) little village of Sea Isle City, NJ. Side note: the city is a lesson in how not to do zoning, as it is now a virtual garbage dump of low-rent, fiberboard condos and filth.

But back to the good old days, when it was unspoiled. When it used to have fabulous submarine races! When I was a kid, my older brother used to go to the races all the time. I begged and begged for Big Bro to take me with him, but he said I couldn't go, because you had to be 17 to get in. Besides, he reasoned, our mom wouldn't let me stay up to watch them, because they didn't start until ten pm.

I was crestfallen (god, I've been dying to work that word into something for soooo long!). But I figured that I could get to those races somehow. I knew, from listening carefully to the older kids, that they were always held in the back bay, and you watched them from under the bridge that led onto the island at 41st Street. That was a short, five block walk from our house. All I had to do was convince my mom that I was going to a friend's house for a while and all would be fine. I'd be home by 11 pm.

So I did it. One Wednesday evening in August, off I went. 14 years old**, full of confidence and holding my new Sears binoculars, I executed my genius plan to see the races. I even got there early, so I wouldn't miss the start! Plunked myself down under the west side of the bridge (even brought licorice for a sub-watching snack) and waited. I'd like to skip over the details from here, if you don't mind. Let's sum it up: seemingly endless waiting, mosquitos, darkness, arms sore from holding binoculars, not a submarine in sight, Sea Isle City police officer, short ride home, infinite embarrassment.

Even after this, I still fell for my brother's explanation that they never held the races on Wednesday nights. I was, in fact 18 years old before I knew the truth. And it was my little brother who had to tell me.

Ads in Old Kids Magazines

What kid wouldn't want a Real Elephant!? Or X-ray glasses, or his very own Real, Working Submarine!? I sense a sad, submarine-centric ability to be duped in me. Yeah, the advertisements in some of my favorite old magazines were doozies. In fact, I now realize that the "magazines" were, in fact, nothing more than barely coherent vehicles for the cheap ads. Even the best of them, like Ranger Rick, were nothing but shills for the ripoff artists in the back pages. Do I seem bitter? Let me 'splain.

Years of salivating over ads for BB Guns, exploding cigarettes, fart bags, rubber vomit, "sure win dice", real Indian Headdresses, and the like had primed me for the Holy Grail of prizes: that "real, working submarine". For a kid who loved Jules Verne's adventures, nothing could compare to having your own submarine! It was described as "seven feet long", with a real periscope and portholes, and...get was made out of genuine 200lb-test material! Awesome!

Knowing I couldn't go wrong with this, and having covered every possible angle of where something could go wrong, I went to work on my father to scare up the $9 I'd need. How could he possibly argue with a real submarine for only nine bucks? Our swimming pool was 30 ft. long, so I'd have plenty of space (I cleverly calculated the 23 ft. of maneuvering room) to motor around. Our pool was only seven feet deep, so it would be safe if my sub sprang a leak. Besides, it was constructed from 200lb. test material, so it would hold up under the most vicious Depth Charge assault. I was golden! Pops tried to reason with me, but I was an unstoppable force, my logic was rock solid. He caved and said he'd give me half. I cut out the ad, gave dad the money, and he cringed while he wrote out the check. I would only have to wait five weeks to learn why he didn't want to have his name attached to this scheme.

The big day finally came, and I was positively spastic with excitement. Ralphie's Old Man had nothing on my ecstasy of the moment. The box was huge, and heavy. We dragged it into the family room. I made sure we put it near the French Doors leading out to the pool so we'd have an easier time launching her. I had already come up with a name for my sleek U-boat: Nautilus 2. Of course it was lame, but it was perfect. The box cutters came out, straps were removed from the cardboard container and the cargo was revealed!

Revealed to be more cardboard. Cardboard? Cardboard! What? The? Heck?

A lesser man would have said, "I told you so.", but my dad understatedly mused, "Huh! I guess corrugated cardboard is 200 lb. test material."

My real submarine was, in fact, real, in that it existed in time and space, and it worked, in that the cardboard periscope went up and down through the hole in the top, but it was otherwise, let's say, unsuitable for aquatic adventure. It may have been the first time that I was consciously aware of being the ultimate Boob. Rube. Dupe. I was the owner of a cardboard submarine.

We still assembled my prize in the family room, and yes, I climbed inside my cardboard tube and tried valiantly to play Captain Nemo, but the wind was really out of my sails. The Nautilus 2 was going to make me the laughingstock of the neighborhood if something wasn't done quickly. So my little brother and I took her out for her maiden voyage in the pool, to be used as target practice for our cannonball contest. She lasted a good ten minutes before succumbing to our chlorine-tainted Davy Jone's Locker.

I'd like to say that this was the end of my days as the most gullible person on Earth. I'd really like to say that. But we all know better, don't we? I'm more educated now, a little jaded, and vastly more cautious about things in the back of magazines (I'm not falling for the "Draw Tippy the Turtle" thing!), but everyone who knows me knows that I'm good for a laugh or two. Scary pop up face on some YouTube video? Call me.

Lastly, I fell for this, but in my defense, so did thousands of other people.
Hot Headed Naked Ice Borers.

You would have, too. But Santa wouldn't have. I know, because he's a close, personal friend of mine.

* This is technically measured in Dog or Cat Years, because I still believe in Santa, and if you do the math, it works out about right.

**In people years.


  1. ROFLMAO I've fallen for a few things myself over the years. Remember Sea Monkeys? Yeah, sorry but brine shrimp just don't qualify as Sea Monkeys. And not a single one of them was carrying a trident like the Sea Monkey on the box.

  2. My favorite by far... the hotheaded ice borers. That's terrific... makes me wish there really were some. It would be so, hm, entertaining. And scary. And gruesome. Yet humorous.

    I probably need therapy.

  3. @Raven: Good old Sea Monkeys! Loved those. What a disappointment they turned out to be. I thought I could get them to learn tricks and things. Ha!

    @Ami: I was sooooo fooled by that article when it originally appeared! Awesome job by Discover Magazine with that April Fool's prank. I laughed so hard when I found out the joke that I thought I broke a rib!
    But even funnier was that some people were so angry about it, threatening to cancel subscriptions, etc.
    You can't be mad at a joke that freaking funny and harmless. Hell, I was going around telling everyone I could about this amazing new animal, showing off the pictures in the article and everything. I was super excited!

    We have to be able to laugh at ourselves. I still think it's the best prank I ever fell for, and I kept the original issue and still show it to people to this day.

  4. I had Ranger Rick! And I ADORED this post. I wanted to give it a great big hug. Especially when you bought the cardboard submarine...which, to my decidedly low standards, would be totally worth 9 dollars.

  5. Yet another thing we have in common. Someday I'll tell you about the evil things my hubby, mom, six year olds on playgrounds (like yesterday, not when I was also six), have done to me.

  6. "rosacea suffering gift-giver" = hilarious.
    P.S. I can SO relate to you.

  7. @ Nicki: Thanks. Hug away! And lift a glass to Nautilus 2!

    @ Nicole: I look forward to the stories.

    @ dbs: We do seem to have some eerily parallel backgrounds.

  8. I spent many a day at the Jersey shore growing up, but in Seaside Heights.....

  9. Growing up in South Africa we didn't have cool things like submarines. I really wanted a sea monkey. Would always be jealous when reading Archie comics. Oh and the machine that would print money.