The Gift of a Magic 17-Digit Ball – by Martin Kimeldorf

In my leisure wellness book (and workshop) Serious Play I shared my observation that too many people forget how to play. And to drive the point home I shared my personal motto Play Now or Pay Later. Toys enrich our experience across a lifetime. I also believe that if you want to measure a person, look at the “toys” they collect. One toy I dearly treasure is the Magic 8-Ball and now I see its relevance expanded to 17 digits.

The notion that everyone has a unique magic 17-digit number associated with their being came from last night’s early-autumn dream. Perhaps this was in anticipation of the toy-giving season looming just ahead. The dream did not explain how the 17-digit number was generated. It does appear, though, to have been based on the original 8-Ball fortune-telling toy, originally designed by Albert C. Carter and Abe Bookman in 1946 for the Mattel toy company. Back then, the popular 8-Ball toy supposedly possessed clairvoyant powers. Owners used it like a personal crystal ball. In that long ago holiday season it became a fad, a must-have toy for children 7 to 70.

The users held the ball tightly in one hand, squeezing and shaking it until their fingers grew tired. Then they asked out loud their personal question. Examples of these questions may have been:

  • Will Debbie go to the dance with me?
  • Should I take Algebra I or Geometry I?
  • Should I buy the Studebaker or the Oldsmobile sedan?
  • Will I qualify for a home mortgage loan of $16,000?
  • Can I get a new job if I quit the one I have now?
  • Can I trust Tyrone?

Then, you turned over the ball to find one of 20 possible replies. The following are a few sample replies:

  • It is certain.
  • Without a doubt.
  • Yes, definitely.
  • Most likely.
  • Outlook good.
  • Ask again.
  • Better not tell you now.
  • Concentrate, and ask again.
  • Don’t count on it.
  • My reply is no.
  • Very doubtful.

Then, almost 30 years later, the Ideal Toy Company became the new owners. Their redesigned model has remained popular since.

In the new 2K century, around 2021, the ball underwent further improvements and expansion which greatly improved the number and types of questions it could answer. However, the user had to input a 17-digit code related to their personhood. To generate such a long and unique number, a website was created by the top mathematicians and astrologers of the time. Of course, this was not a group who played nice together, and several times the police had to be called in to break up fights. By the time the cold compresses and bandaging materials had been used up they came up with a formula that could create this unique 17-digit code.

Fragments recollected, upon waking from the dream, suggested that one’s 17-digit number involved inputting one’s exact time of birth, weight, height, astrological sign, career job choice from a vocational test, longitude and latitude at time of birth, and a few other minor numbers that have since evaporated in my early morning wakefulness.

Today, presidents from the PTA to the United States all utilize their expanded magic balls at work.  Many claim they could not make their hourly critical-and-controversial decisions without one. I guess you could say we’ve been saved by the toy.

Howdy Doody  Of course, the blueprint for the magic 17-digit ball remains in the obscure and deep-state hands of the CIA-FBI. If truth be told, there it is held in joint custody with the heirs of the original designers, Victor F. Campbell and E. Roger Muir, who produced the 1950s Howdy Doody show. And while the heirs are pretty satisfied with the final arrangements, Howdy Doody remains sullen and silent about the whole affair.

Martin Kimeldorf

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