Sunday, December 05, 2004

I want a Tonka Cat 

When my sister and I were young, my mother loved to dress us in cute, girly dresses. However, she and my father believed, way back in the early 60s, in raising their daughters in an egalitarian, non-sexist way. And so, along with soft stuffed animals and dolls and little tea sets, my parents also gave us "boy" toys: sixshooters and sheriff's badges (it was Texas), a football, a basketball (complete with hoop and backboard over the carport), and cars and trucks. Our first truck, and my favorite, was a pickup truck. About 12" long, it was shiny fire-engine red, with chrome trim and hard rubber tires. Of course, it was made of steel, with a paint finish that proved to be much sturdier than the paint on the baseboards and doors in our house. I loved that truck, and used it to move all sorts of things - blocks, Lincoln logs, my plastic horse figurines - around the house and yard.

While we had cars and trucks, we did not, as I recall, have Tonka toys. The boys on my block had Tonka toys - dump trucks and backhoes and bulldozers. They were bright yellow and black, and they had all sorts of cool operable parts. The boys' Tonka toys phase was around the same time as their "girls have cooties" phase, so I didn't have much chance to play with the Tonka toys.

Now that I'm an architect, I spend a fair amount of time around construction sites. I see the excavators, backhoes and skip loaders in action on a regular basis. On my job sites, however, I'm focusing on the condition of the excavation, or the concrete formwork that is going in, rather than on the big yellow machines. Other people's job sites are a different matter. There's a big construction site two blocks from our house; I drive past it every day on my way to work. For a couple of months now, I've been watching the bulldozers and excavators demolish the old buildings and dig out what will become the basement parking garage for the new building. More than once, as I've watched a backhoe rip apart a wall, or move a load of dirt, I've thought, "I want to do that." I want to learn how to drive and operate one of those pieces of equipment. I love the idea of wielding the power in one of those huge, awkward beasts to tear into something and take out only the desired part. I think about how much I've relished using my 8 lb. sledgehammer to take down walls, and can only imagine how satisfying it must be to take out the side or roof of an entire building.

What do I want for Christmas? How about a few hours with this big Cat and a very ugly building... or even just a big pile of dirt?