I was about 11 when my parents took us our first (and last) family road trip. They surprised us kids and picked us up early from school, van already loaded and ready to hit the road. South Dakota, here we come! The drive and trip was boring, and awesome; as road trips often are. We made the usual stops out in the “Wild West”: Wall Drug, Mt. Rushmore, and that road with the donkeys and bison everywhere.
We were probably at Wall Drug, or some other equally ridiculous tourist shop, when I first saw them. Bright colors, glossy finish: that barrel full of polished rocks was a treasure to behold! I am sure I wanted some. I am sure I asked and begged for some. I am sure my parents gaufed and said, “No.” I am sure I protested all the more. I am sure we quarreled. There is a chance at least one of us left in tears. Ahh, aren’t family vacations so relaxing?!
But what do people even expect kids to do with those rocks? How do they even keep a kid entertained long enough to walk out of the store? Then once you get them home what do you do with them? Look at them? Set them on a shelf. Scream and throw a fit when your brother comes in and snatches them off your shelf? I now see why my parents rejected my request, those rocks were just a shiny, pricy argument waiting to happen between my brother and I. We could just continue doing that for free, like usual.
They also have all that fool’s gold for sale, saying it was found up there in them hills. So the colorful, polished rocks sort of make sense, geographically or by association, in South Dakota. But I have ventured a little further from the Wild West and I have seen those rocks for sale almost everywhere, you can’t get away from the damn things!
Who’s idea was it to make shiny, colorful rocks the official tourist trinket? Did The World Organization for Tourist Trinkets and Other Useless Items (TWOTTOUI) have a big meeting and everyone voted on the shiny rocks? Or maybe, in a bit of an over-confident haste, The South Dakota Organization for Tourist Trinkets and Other Useless Items (TSDOTTOUI) ordered and bought too many of those shiny rocks, thinking they were going to be a big hit. But it was far too many for the state to ever hope to sell in their or their children’s lifetimes. Even with the rock’s shiny ability to entice kids, there still were enough sightful parents around able to say no, seeing the absurdity, and possibility for another unnecessary sibling argument.
But maybe the man in charge of inventory at TSDOTTOUI had an idea, a way to redeem himself and to keep the state from going completely bust after making such a large, outlandish order. He had taken speech and debate class in high school. He knew he just needed an audience and his B+ orator skills would take care of the rest. So he called a meeting with the TWOTTOUI at the World Head Quarters in Dubai. Every continent was represented; countries from the four corners of the Earth sent their representatives. The details and facts about what happened next are a bit fuzzy, and actually entirely nonexistent. But that matters very little, because we all know what the outcome of that meeting was. Hailing from humbling beginnings in a small town in the middle of South Dakota, the Head of Inventory at TSDOTTOUI changed the tourist industry forever that day. Thanks to his mediocre speech skills, the lack of a translator for most of the other languages, and an old, rustic looking barrel full of pretty, shiny rocks, parents not only in South Dakota, but the whole world over now have the chance to spend precious vacation time arguing with their children about why they are not going to be buying even just one of those damn rocks.
A vending machine of those damn rocks, in Dresden Germany