LANCASTER – A rare super bloom of wild poppies following record winter rains prompted tens of thousands of motorists to converge on a strip of desert hills an hour north of Los Angeles over the weekend to gaze at fields of orange, yellow and purple flowers after years of drought that has ravaged Southern California seems to have abated.
At least for now, visitors at the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve were eager to note.
“This is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for my wife, my daughter and me to enjoy such a breathtaking gathering,” said Charlie Hayes, 34, interviewed while he and his family idled in traffic outside the preserve and appreciated the spectacle of rolling hills and honking cars inside the comfort of their Subaru Outback. “I didn’t want to miss this chance to see these flowers … and all of these people … we might not be around when this happens again.”
“I pity you, fool, for talking like that!” said ‘Mr. T ,’ a 10-inch African-American muscular figure with a large bobbing head, Mohawk, wearing overalls and gold chains, located on Hayes’ dashboard.
The ‘Mr. T’ resembled the 1980s American actor of the same name who starred as B.A. Baracus in the television series The A-Team, as well as boxer Clubber Lang in the 1982 film Rocky III.
“I’m a huge fan, at least for now,” said Hayes, who claimed to be experiencing strain in his relationship with his new friend.
“What was that, fool?” said Mr. T.
“I wasn’t talking to you – I was talking to the reporter,” said Hayes, who admitted that he occasionally suffered from melancholia and hoped the day’s trip – as well as the talking head keeping him company – helped clear his mind.
“It takes a smart guy to play dumb, but you can’t fool me, fool — so don’t be messing with me,” said Mr. T, one in a series of new Attitude Adjusters, developed by tech company Rocket & Gamble, now available for purchase at select mall outlet stores.
These artificially-intelligent bobbleheads function as life coaches, according to company literature, designed to tell overly-despondent, sensitive and/or afflicted owners – often millennials fascinated with 1980s and 1990s pop culture — what they need to hear, but not necessarily what they want to hear.
That, according to Hayes, is also what makes them so special.
“Some days I don’t know if I love him or hate him,” said Hayes of his Attitude Adjuster. “I just hope he gives me the inspiration I need to get through this tiresome existence.”
“I pity you, fool!” said Mr. T. “As a kid, I got three meals a day — Oatmeal, Miss-A-Meal and No Meal. Climate change aint your problem, fool! Your perspective is. What’s your little girl think of you and your head games?”
Hayes glanced through his review mirror at his daughter, Ashley, 7, already bored of the flowers and traffic and playing a video game on her tablet.
“That’s just my point, facing such apathy — facing such odds — what can any of us do to make a positive difference in this world?” said Hayes as he placed a piece of Spearmint Bubble Gum into his mouth and tossed the aluminum wrapper into his console. “The world’s falling apart, and we’re all too caught up in our own individual B.S. to do a darn collective thing about it!”
“Difference in this world?” said Mr. T. “You’re looking too far, fool. When I was growing up, my family was so poor we couldn’t afford to pay attention.”
“So, what’s your point?” said Hayes, laughing at Mr. T’s old line. “You’re not poor anymore, fool, but you’re still of no help to me!”
Hayes started to complain that he might not have purchased the appropriate Attitude Adjuster at the store.
According to Rocket & Gamble, its line of life coaches can be customized at a starting price of $1,000 to fit any individual’s needs.
However, besides Mr. T., the least expensive and most popular models of Attitude Adjusters cost $500 and include mostly 1980s pop-culture icons such as the remaining members of The A-Team, Hulk Hogan, Pee-Wee Herman, Rambo, Madonna, the Care Bears, Michael Jordan, Voltron, and the Frog Brothers, played by Corey Haim and Feldman, in The Lost Boys.
“They’re even starting to make Attitude Adjusters from more recent times,” said Hayes. “I saw an Ice Cube, Lady Gaga, and Kevin Hart at the store … but apparently the Obama and Trump talking heads aren’t selling well.
“The guy at the register told me that he thinks it’s because the politics of this country have become so ridiculous it’s boring, so no one wants them.
“People want an escape from their troubles, not a reminder of them,” said Hayes reflectively, and then he pointed at the river of cars and fields of flowers outside the driver’s window. “See?”
“Now you’re getting it,” said Mr. T., his head bobbing up and down enthusiastically. “That’s why we’re here, too. So why don’t you pull over, and let’s get out and smell those flowers!”
Jack Hilton, April 2, 2017