Maybe I shouldn’t have trusted the ad in the comic book, but I was seven. What did I know? For only five bucks I could get two entire armies of Roman gladiators with catapults. How could I pass up catapults?
Even after thirty-two years, I can still picture the advertisement, a comic book drawing of fearsome soldiers who would have made Russell Crowe look like a sissy. The picture looked so real. These toys had to be amazing. I could almost hear their ancient swords clashing in the heat of battle. Oh, the epic fights I could wage if only I could get my hands on these gladiators.
Fortunately my parents were pushovers, and before I knew it, my mom had sent off for my prize. Time stood still as I waited for the holy grail of action toys to be delivered to my very doorstep. The ad had said to allow four to six weeks for delivery. It felt more like four to six months.
Weeks later, just as I was about to give up hope, a strange package arrived in the mail, a small white box. We rarely got boxes, usually just envelopes stuffed with bills. But this box couldn’t possibly contain my soldiers. It was way too small. Maybe they had just shipped one of the catapults.
I tore into the box only to discover one of the biggest disappointments of my childhood. These weren’t the gigantic warriors depicted in the ad but pathetic, plastic figures. The tiny yellow and blue gladiators were even smaller than your standard issue army men.
And the catapults? They looked like something you’d get in a Cracker Jack box.
Totally, absolutely lame!
That day I joined a long line of boys who’d ordered x-ray glasses, fake vomit and muscle-building fitness gimmicks from the back of a comic book only to be sadly disappointed.
Things aren’t always all they’re cracked up to be, are they? So much for truth in advertising.
I wish I could say this was the last foolish choice I’ve made because I bought into a bogus promise, but unfortunately, it’s just one more example of a lifetime of gullibility. Sure, kids are suckers for a clever advertisement, but as adults are we really any wiser?
Got any fad diet books or unused exercise equipment sitting around gathering dust? How about that gadget you just had to have, but turned out to be a waste of money? Yep, the comic book con artists are alive and well, and most of us willing to buy whatever pretty picture they’re trying to sell.
Much worse than the junk I buy, though, are the lies I buy into. That’s what really leaves me feeling stupid. Popularity. Success. Greed. They all paint alluring pictures, but in the end they’re just as big of a rip-off as my plastic gladiators.
How many of us have gone too far in a relationship because of the promise of true love? How many of us have lied at work just to get ahead of the next guy? How many times have all of us done the dumbest things just because we thought it would pay off in the end?
It reminds me of Adam and Eve in the garden. The serpent, the world’s first advertising genius, told them if you eat this fruit, you’ll be like God. Like the rest of us, they bought the hype and bit the fruit. And like the rest of us, they discovered it wasn’t anything like the ad promised.
At the end of all of these rainbows we discover a pot of fool’s gold, bitter disappointment and lousy trinkets no better than my comic book soldiers. I wish I still had those gladiators. I’d carry one around in my pocket just to remind me that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.