Monday, May 24, 2010

A Guest Blogger

Repairing toys at the Toy Resource Center
 - a blog entry by Art Whitfield  5-21-2010

For over 14 years I’ve been repairing toys for the Toy Resource Center (TRC), formerly called the Rochester Toy Library.  There is tremendous satisfaction in bringing home a pile of broken toys that were destined for the trash, and returning a few weeks later to the smiles of children, parents, and staff.  Due to the TRC, I’ve made some wonderful friends, met striking people who touched my life, and watched children look with wonder when they watch me repair a beloved toy in the library.  Now how cool is that! 

So what’s up with repairing toys?  Most often, its simply gluing a wheel back on a wooden train, or replacing a broken bolt on a tricycle.  But other times, in the quiet of my basement workshop, it’s a real challenge - technically and mechanically to complete a toy repair.  While not all of my repair attempts are successful, most are.  When a toy has broken too severely to be saved, I’m not distressed because it was going to be tossed anyway had I not been there to try.  Some repairs become tests of my home-shop manufacturing skills.  Other repairs become a test of my engineering skills and diagnostic skills.  Especially the electronic toys, where the failure is not obvious and I don’t have all the circuit details available.  Sometimes these challenges take hours of investigation, and clearly more time than the toy is worth.  But a success is a learning experience for me, and often a private victory.  The staff at the TRC have often listened patiently while I describe, in no doubt boring detail, how I completed a challenging repair.  I’m grateful for their patience and willingness to listen.  Then again, they are used to working with kids!

Some repairs are not fun.  If it’s a toy that I truly dislike, sometimes it’s difficult to make the same effort as with a toy I like.  In those times, I need to remember that there are probably many children who love the toy, and that my opinions don’t matter.  Again, here’s where I totally trust the toy librarian and other staff.  They know the toys in ways that I never will.  Thinking on this, no doubt I know the toys in other ways (mostly how they work and what they look like inside) that most will never know, or perhaps ever care.  Also in the “not fun” category are the toys that break repeatedly.  Most often this is due to a poor design.  The play value may be there, but if it’s always broken, it’s difficult to see past that to the merits of the toy. 

In closing, I want to restate what a pleasure it is for me to repair toys on behalf of the children, parents, caregivers, and staff of the Toy Library.  You all trust me with the toys unquestioningly, and are always beaming with pleasure when I bring them back.  It’s a mutual sharing of affection that touches me deeply.  I will always treasure my time spent as the “toy doctor”.

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