KENT, Ohio - At heart, I guess I still have a streak of seventh-grader in me. Middle school humor is all about one-liner jokes that may be blue enough to raise your teacher's eyebrows, but not so blue, the principal would toss you out of your class.
Maybe that's why I split my sides laughing at the Off The Wagon Toy Shop in Kent. It has a room filled with board games, toy trains, and other traditional things you would find in a toy store. But in another room, there is the plastic dog poop, the underwear dispenser and the zombie coffee cups. Wow! I'm in the 7th grade again, goin' for the cheap laugh among the guys who are huddled cracking jokes in a corner of the gymnasium.
"I just think we all like to be a little bit goofy," said Michelle Sahir, owner of Off The Wagon. She owns another more traditional toy store elsewhere, which does a nice business. But the Kent store does not take a backseat to its traditional brother.
Even professors carrying briefcases from the classes at nearby Kent State University parade through Off The Wagon, looking for good gag items. "Something that makes noises and scares people and pops out," said David Widner, who is working on a doctorate degree in geography. "Or something that's kind of gross," he added with a sheepish smile which crossed his face.
One of the big sellers is plastic dog poop. You drop the four-inch item on the floor and its looks as if Fido decided to not go outside but leave his calling card in the house. The toy is probably as old as humankind, but it still draws a laugh.
Sahir knows that. that's why she does to novelty shows and conventions with the latest products designed to draw a laugh. "I have hundreds of manufacturers that I buy from," she said as she walked among her stocked shelves of bacon-flavored lip balm, nihilist toothpaste (toothpaste that has no flavor and no color), and the swirling eyeglasses which she sells.
Among the customers was Gary Moon, who perhaps is better known as "Dr. Zombie," a sidekick to the host of the local cable access show, "Daughters of the Ghoul." Dr. Zombie, his hair hanging over his ears and his face boasting a sinister smile, said he was looking for products for his show. "Maybe anything that catches my eyes ... like skulls," he offered.
With that, he delved into the shelves where zombie-oriented stuff was wedged among books about "Rude Jokes" and the underwear section. In the latter, there were handerpants. They are fingerless gloves made to look like men's underwear briefs. The package called them "underpants for your hands."
As I said, the shop is filled with blue humor stuff, but not so bad it would get you kicked out of school. I went crazy in the shop. I would have loved to have seen the x-ray eyeglasses I used to see advertised in the back of comic book pages. I always wondered if they really worked as they were advertised. Supposedly, you could see the bones in your hand if you wore the glasses.
We seventh graders what else we could see through. "Hee-hee-hee," we would titter when I in middle school. Well, Off The Wagon Toy Shop didn't have them, but they did have other eyeglasses that made you look like your eyes were swirling around like a tornado had crashed through your head. Good stuff.
The store had all the other traditional board games and toys. Those aisles were filled with customers looking for gifts for children. But everyone of the customers topped by the other section of the store, probably remembering their own middle school years and the humor that comes along when you are that age.
When I left the store in Kent, Dr. Zombie was still there. He probably had found some plastic skulls or some other zombie stuff he would use on his show. He was at the right place to find what he needed.
If you know where I can find those x-ray eyeglasses, let me know. I still wonder what I could see with 'em. Hee-hee-hee.