One wouldn’t think it would be all that terribly difficult to find rubber duckies in NYC. In fact, one wouldn’t think it would be all that difficult to find rubber duckies just about anywhere. One would think that rubber duckies would be everywhere, populating the shelves of novelty shops and children’s stores alike. They have their own song, for God’s sake, and a pretty famous song at that. It’s certainly as famous as the Itsy Bitsy Spider’s or London Bridge’s or That Guy’s who’s been working on the railroad for quite some time now (although, if we want to be entirely forthright, That Guy’s song probably should have been written in Mandarin and sung by a stereotype in a triangular hat and a Fu Man Chu mustache). So naturally, one should be highly surprised, and somewhat suspicious, when learning that rubber duckies are surprisingly difficult to locate in the wild.
This is the story of my pursuit of the notoriously elusive rubber duck.
The idea was simple. My wife wanted a rubber duck for my, at that time, future infant daughter’s bathtub. It was the last thing we needed. We had everything else. As a way of feeling as fully prepared as it is possible for first parents to possibly feel, we had accumulated a mountain of supplies, and now all we needed to complete our collection, and make us feel properly equipped, was one simple rubber duck.
So off I went, on the hunt.
I was optimistic at the outset. I expected the hunt to be a simple one. I pictured myself as Ernest Hemingway after a wildebeest. Point, shoot, bag a few, and then head on back to the bivouac for a trophy photo and a nice cognac. See? Simple.
Alas, t’was not to be.
Refusing to resort to the Canal Street shops or the Internet (the former, because Canal Street on foot is a veritable living nightmare; the latter, because, well, that just seemed too easy), I went to locales where I would assume rubber duckies might typically hibernate. Novelty shops, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, Party City, et cetera, et cetera. Nope, nope, nope. Helpful employees at places like Bed, Bath, and Beyond suggested I try Party City. Helpful employees at Party City suggested I try Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Helpful employees at novelty shops suggested I might have more luck in the Spring. With much effort, after internally noting that it was already April, I refrained from asking these helpful employees what Spring had to do with anything. For days I searched, leaving the office job I had at the time, sometimes literally for hours, to go and scour the City for rubber ducks.
I searched and I searched, but those damn duckies, they eluded me.
After a few weeks of no success, I began to believe that rubber duckies didn’t actually exist, that they were a myth, a hoax perpetrated upon the rest of the world by Ernie, Bert, and the rest of the motley Jim Henson cabal.
Finally, in a supermarket of all places, my hunt took a turn for the better. I found one. A yellow one (not shockingly). Plus, this duck served other purposes besides providing floating amusement. Through apparatuses this author surely would fail to understand, this duck could tell whether the water in the bath was too hot, and subsequently could inform the bather of this discovery. The word “HOT” would become visible, in white, in all caps, upon the ducky’s underside if the water temperature was determined to be too elevated.
Well, as it turns out, this ducky was broken, malfunctional, worthy of serving only as a floating amusement. The word HOT always glowed in white upon his underside, whether he was in hot water or cold water or on dry land, continuously, at all hours of the day and night, his underbelly always, to this day, glows HOT.
All the same, I kept him.
Ultimately, as can be witnessed through the photographic evidence provided, at a variety of locations all over the City, I was eventually able to locate a plethora of duckies, some identical (or as identical as rubber duckies can be), some eclectic, interesting, or downright weird. After making a gift of one of these aforementioned weird ducks to my neighbor’s four-year-old, when she asked me what this strange thing was for, I was unable to conjure up any sort of reasonable response.
Even now, weeks later, but still a time weeks or months before my daughter will be able to swim with them, her duckies are ready for her, sitting en masse in a crowded fishbowl, patiently awaiting their chance to join her in the tub. They are sure to get scratched, stained, peed on or worse, and ultimately, most likely, they will be discarded.
But then again, maybe not. After such an exhaustive hunt, as any intrepid huntsman might do, it might be nice to keep a couple around as trophies. Hang their heads over the fireplace. Just to prove that they ever actually existed in the first place.