Aug 19, 2010
Vulture Crash: Culture Out of Context
Once upon a time, erasers smelled awful. For each mistake made while transcribing your thoughts in already-painstaking analog longhand, you were forced to endure a visceral reminder of your error, even as you worked to remove it. With every corrective stroke, the vile rubber released a toxic odor like a tire fire in a barn full of animal farts. Forced to choose between inhaling that noxious emission and leaving their grammatical lapses intact, schoolchildren and counting-room clerks alike were everywhere driven to the brink of insanity. Truly, it was a terrible time to use a pencil.
The scenario hypothesized above provides perhaps the most plausible explanation for the otherwise inexplicable phenomenon I find myself facing today. Namely…
As everyone but the small children that this product category appeals to most must know, erasers aren’t meant to be eaten. They aren’t meant to be put in your nose or wiped all over your upper lip, either. It stands to reason, then, that erasers don’t need to be scented. If your face is so close to the paper that you can smell your eraser shavings, well…as my 4th grade teacher used to say, “Sit up straight, mister!”
Despite the non-necessity of their being, scented erasers are, in fact, widely available. You’ve probably seen them. If not, here’s what to expect. Generally speaking, they’re shaped like the object whose scent they bear…the banana-shaped eraser smells like bananas. Or, more accurately, it smells like banana-flavored candy. If an eraser is generically shaped (round, square, what have you) but its package is strewn with strawberries, that eraser smells like strawberry Starburst.
All of which explains why I bought the following assortment of erasers in my local stationer’s “scented” section.
Exhibit 1: CHIBI HAM
Now, what do you suppose these erasers smell like? Before we even get into that, let’s look a little closer.
While removing a single letter “S” does render it infinitely more charming, the slogan—“CHIBI HAM: It’ a good friend.”—is, at the very least, misleading. Seven scented erasers are nobody’s idea of a friend, cute or otherwise. It’s not like you’re getting a real hamster…not for $1.69, anyway. I am assuming the word “HAM” here is short for “hamster” (or some linguistic relation thereof). I also wouldn’t be surprised if “CHIBI” meant “cute” in, oh, let’s say Japanese.
(Turns out I was wrong, but only sort of. Breaking all blog-rules, I went ahead and did what might be construed as actual research in the form of Googling “Chibi.” According to Wikipedia, “Chibi” is a Japanese word meaning “short person” or “small child.” But there seems to be a certain amount of cuteness implied.)
Cuteness is certainly more than implied in these pictures—it’s all up in your face like a clown’s cream pie. My question is, how did they settle on these seven depictions of hamster habits?
I don’t know what you might consider a likely scenario for a hamster to be in, even an especially cute one, but I’m pretty sure coal-mining isn’t on your list. A hamster in a hatbox, sure…that could happen. Pushing a snowball? I guess, if the snow were covering some kind of food-ball. (Do hamsters store food for the winter? Do hamsters even exist in the wild? And, if so, what do they run in circles on?) But most of these hamsters’ behavior is neither likely nor (an acceptable substitute for some) exceedingly cute.
One of them is in the classic Oliver Twist, hat in hands, alms for the poor beggar’s pose. One is morbidly obese and has leaves on his head. Another appears to be ascending to Heaven (!) on little rodent wings. Finally, the only female hamster (as indicated by the flower in her hair) sits alone on an even larger flower, contemplating a severe shortage of suitable breeding stock. Naturally, my immediate reaction is not to cry out “How precious!,” but rather to be deeply concerned for their collective health and well-being. Clearly, living in a plastic bag has its price.
Of course, since they were in the “scented” section, and because they have hamsters all over them, I’m pretty much expecting these erasers to smell like rodentia. It’s only right. But nooooooo.
Much like Lotte’s Cat Gum,someone decided to pull the old sensory switcheroo with this product. Instead of smelling like hamsters, CHIBI HAM smells like…Lotte’s Cat Gum? What is that fucking smell? In my previous post I decided on snozzberries, but I’m starting to think there’s truly an Asian fruit whose odor this is. I couldn’t say for sure—Lord knows I’ve yet to sniff them all.
Whatever that smell may be, it sure is intoxicating…my hand is halfway to my mouth when I remember the sign: “ERASERS. PLEASE DO NOT EAT.” Whew, good thing that was there. Switching to Plan B, I promptly grab whatever lead-based longhand I have lying around and set to erasing every word with my face pressed so close to the page that my nostrils are soon clogged with rubbery dust. And let me tell you, it was totally worth it. Except that I accidentally erased the end of this article.
Exhibit 2: Happy Wanko
It’s too bad, because I was going to talk about my other scented eraser purchases, and those were terrible. For instance, some of them aren’t scented at all, and unscented is pretty much the worst thing a scented eraser can be—it’s the ultimate scented eraser fail. These particular erasers sort of make up for it by being covered in poorly-rendered pictures of puppies fraternizing with tiny cartoon insects (even if one of the chihuahuas plainly intends to kill and eat its play-pal). Oh yeah, and they’re called “Happy Wanko,” which is just stunning. I couldn’t even make that shit up.
If I hadn’t erased this last bit in my CHIBI HAM-sniffing frenzy, you would now be reading a charming sentence that both summed up my earlier observations and gave them a wry, knowing twist, leaving you with a new and startlingly refreshing perspective on life. Oh well…your loss. Just imagine I wrote it, and maybe some of that stuff will kick in anyway.
Reporting live from the field,