The new American dream, it seems, is to invent a product that will fly off store shelves without any advertising or promotion.
It's not impossible. There was the hula hoop in the 1950s, and now, 60 years later, there's the fidget spinner. Spinners, the story goes, were invented to give kids who have a need to fidget something to play with and help them concentrate.
How you can possibly listen or learn anything while you're playing with one of these things is beyond me. But if the sole intent was to invent something that would sell itself, the inventor hit a home run.
Over at the Shell Food Mart at Fairfield Avenue and Paulding Road, the spinners, which come in boxes that don't even have a name on them, are taped to the glass in front of the cash registers.
Nassr Humaidi, an employee at the station, said they've been carrying the spinners for about 20 days and they're popular. Kids spin them on their noses, on their foreheads, on their shoulders, Humaidi said, but he couldn't give a demonstration. He just sells them.
The doodads range in price from $7 to $10. Some have lights, and the more expensive the spinner, the longer it spins, Humaidi said.
A salesman stocking shelves at the station was much more animated. The spinners are popping up everywhere, he said, and people are gobbling them up.
In one store, said the man (he wouldn't give his name), he saw a woman buy five, one for each of her kids. They were each a different color so they could tell them apart.
“I don't get it,” the salesman said. He said one store he'd been to had gotten 50 of them and sold half that morning.
If you haven't heard of the spinners, all you have to do is ask a teacher. In the schools, they're apparently everywhere.
New Haven Intermediate School even put a post on its Facebook page, reminding parents that spinners are considered toys and toys aren't allowed at school. If a student is caught fidgeting with one in class, it will be confiscated, though it will be returned at the end of the last day of school.
In Fort Wayne Community Schools, officials have heard complaints, district spokesman Krista Stockman said. The district hasn't banned spinners, “but they are a toy, and if they are a distraction, the student will have to not use it.”
As far as kids with fidgeting issues, the schools deal with them in a different way, she said.
Since there are only eight days of school left, Stockman said, “we're hoping to make it through and that the fad passes by the time school starts next year.”
She also encouraged parents to delay buying their children spinners. “If you haven't bought one yet, wait two weeks” until the school year ends, Stockman said.
I couldn't wait, though. I bought one, but I lost interest in it before I even finished this column, so I've got one slightly used spinner for sale.
Frank Gray reflects on his and others' experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, fax at 461-8893, or email at email@example.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.