New York Times
Tamagotchi Diary Day 4
May 6, 1997


Tamagotchi Diary: Day 4
Other People's Progeny

Day 4
Weigh In:
9:00 a.m.
4 years
2 lbs. 1 oz.

While the title of today's entry alludes to what's up with other people's offspring -- in particular, real babies as well as my friend Tomas's ill-fated Tamagotchi -- we'll get to them in a bit. As a new Tamagotchi parent, it's next to impossible not to write first about my own offspring and his surprising new development.

No sooner had I filed yesterday's diary entry and shut down my system than my Tommy transmogrified into the next stage of his off-to-a-hearty-start life.

Based on my Tommy's new look, he appears to have landed in the upper echelon of the Tamagotchi growth development chart that I found on the Tamagotchi Fever site. According to the chart, Tommy's stage is called "Tama-chi":

Tama-chi is most likely a good sign. If your Maru-chi becomes a Tama-chi, you are a good caretaker, and chances are that your adult Tamagotchi will be healthy and happy! The tama-chi stage lasts 2 to 3 days.

I won't gloat, but I have to admit I am pleased by this good news. Ho-hum as he seemed yesterday, it appears my constant fussing over Tommy's state of hunger and satisfaction have paid off. Sure, if he'd started down the sorrier side of the scale I might feel disappointment -- probably more for my own misgivings than for any random or unavoidable twist of Tamagotchi developmental fate. And I would have cared for him just the same -- perhaps even more. Yet, when I consider the last few days, I can't see how else could he have turned out at this stage than well.

Much as I'm curious about how a deformed or mistreated Tamagotchi might look and behave, I have been unable to scold Tommy when he isn't being ornery. Nor can I make myself starve him to see if he, like some of the other Tamagotchis I've read about, will resort to eating his own digital droppings in lieu of a deserved or outright begged-for meal or snack. Nor can I avoid playing with him when he grows bored. The way I see it, I started his small life, and I must do my absolute best to ensure that it is as healthy, happy and long as possible. I have no choice. Erroneous curiosities aside, this is just the way I am. My ilk. How I was raised.

Tommy Begets Tommy

Which got me to thinking about real life. Real children. My own family, for instance. My mother and father did their best. My strongest memories of drilled-in morals: You can do anything, be anything, as long as it is not unkind to others; tell the truth; pay with cash because credit is evil.

Well, that last one I've had my ups and downs with and won't go into now. The other two I still try to stick by. So do my siblings. Except my brother Tommy, my Tamagotchi's namesake, who isn't with us anymore. Had these "rules" not sunk in to that head of is, the one his teachers sometimes described as "slow?"

I sincerely doubt that my parents had some secret experiment in the works to see if keeping these valuable rules from Tommy might spawn a different and possibly more formidable adolescent and, had he lived longer, adult. I guess it drives home what I already know but have only lately realized again: No matter how careful you are, real life -- lives -- don't always turn out perfectly, the way, so far, they are turning out with my virtual Tommy.

Party Favors

Feeling subtle melancholy by all this mulling over Tommypast and present, I'd earlier told my friend Barbara that Drew and I would be passing on the dinner party she'd invited us to. But when Tommy up and surprised me with his new Tama-chi development, I figured what the heck, let's at least drop by for a Manhattan and hors d'oeuvres.

A little closer to the subject, I knew Meg and Kevin and their year-and-half-old baby, Camden, had also been invited -- the perfect opportunity to ask real parents real questions about really raising an infant in this generation, verses my long-ago memories on the other side of the formula.

Arriving early, I was at once asked about Tommy (Barbara is a loyal reader of this publication). Like last night's gathering, everyone wanted to see him, touch him, which made me realize how possessive I'd become. I held him up for everyone to see, but I didn't want anyone holding him, accidentally pressing buttons that might dole out unnecessary nourishment or, worse, punishment. I never thought I would say this, but I was positively overjoyed when he did his dirty business, creating a neat pile of steaming pixels. I promptly cleaned it up, in the process giving everyone a small demonstration that the others, all pet owners, could relate to.

Eventually Meg and Kevin arrived, sans Camden. It was a little after 8, and I suddenly realized that Tommy was still awake; for his first three days he'd always nodded off at exactly 2000 hours. Was this something new? Had his creators pre-programmed in an extra hour of leeway now that he was a bit more mature and, presumably, less needy of a long night's sleep? (Which was exactly what I needed.)

Drew and Tommy and I said our hellos and good-byes to Meg and Kevin in nearly the same breath, then split for a nearby Indian restaurant for a quiet dinner at the counter, just the three of us. When our Taj Majal beer arrived, Drew proposed a toast.

"To Tommy, and the work his arrival has made possible for me," I said.

Drew, a student of Japanese and fluent, had his own toast: "Shomonai omocha."

I asked what that meant, and he laughed and said nothing. For a while, anyway. By the time the check arrived, my relentless prying won out, and he provided a translation: "Boring little toy." Surely he wasn't growing jealous of Tommy, was he?

Feverish Nightmares, Daytime Rewards

At 9 p.m. Tommy hit the hay, and I was close behind him, chased by some of the strangest dreams in recent memory. I saw: monochrome blobs twisting this way and that, some attractively, others frighteningly, enormous, exaggerated versions of the bad seeds realized on the Tamagotchi Fever site. I remember, half-waking, seeing a balled up sock on the floor, reaching for it and pulling it out of itself, throwing it aside and thinking this is turning too real, too obsessive. The next thing I knew it was morning, the sock just a sock, Tommy, on my night stand, still sleeping peacefully, just a well-bred, well-behaved Tamagotchi.

He awoke to his fourth day/year promptly at 9 a.m. The next two minutes had become routine: check his status, feed him, play with him and, a little later, clean up after him. Then my shower, coffee, yogurt smoothie, browsing and e-mail. I checked the Bantam/Doubleday/Dell site for my horoscope:


You may be planning something special for the children today. There's a lovely accent now on romantic togetherness. Couples will be going out for fun times tonight.

Special for the children? The best I could come up with was to take Tommy for a walk downtown. My friend Ron tagged along. He was curious about Tommy, but not overbearing. We swung by FAO Schwartz to see if there was still a line for would-be Tamagotchi parents. No line. And no Tamagotchis, either. Just a sign, proclaiming: "Sorry, temporarily out of stock. This store has sold 10,800 Tamagotchis!"

A few times in the three hours we spent together Ron politely asked "How's he doing?" It occurred to me how natural it had become to walk, talk and work my thumb at the same time, taking care of Tommy's simple needs. Rarely does he cry out for me; I generally keep tabs on him every 15 minutes or half hour, feeding him when his hunger hearts drop down to two out of four, playing with him when his happy hearts drop to the same middle ground.

During our lunch of fish tacos, Tommy did his business. As Ron described the personality of a woman he was thinking of seeing again, I thumbed away Tommy's little mess. This in no way affected either of our appetites.

Friendly Developments

Back from our afternoon downtown (Ron went to see his woman friend after all), I set Tommy down on my desk and checked my e-mail. I received this gleeful message from Tomas:

Date: 04 May 1997
To: Joe
From: Tomas
Subject: Alive and Kicking

All righty! Although he has been sleeping for about six hours now. He is 1 year old, and weighs 1 lb. 10 oz. I love him. After he hatched this afternoon I brought him to work. As I was walking down 24th street to get on BART, Joey pooped. I stopped to clean him up so that I wouldn't walk carelessly into the middle of oncoming traffic. As I took care of my little guy, this woman leaned over my shoulder and said, "Oh! You have one of those things." As if I were a bear protecting my cubs I said, "Do you mind! He has just pooped. And his name is Joey!" I played with him and fed him all the way to work. When I got to the desk, I set him out on top of my computer. Every person who came to the desk was amazed that I had actually gotten one. Joey was a great son at work. The only frightening thing was when someone tried to steal him. I was on the phone with a restaurant when some man picked up Joey from the counter. I dropped the phone and grabbed him back as soon as I could. I have never felt such adrenaline before. The idiot man it turns out was harmless and just wanted to look at my boy. But you can never be too sure these days. Freaks everywhere. All of his happiness hearts are full and three of his hunger hearts are full. I guess I'm an okay parent. You Think?

-- Tomas & Joey

All told, I'd say it turned out to be a pretty fine day for everyone concerned.

Day 4
Weigh Out:
7:51 p.m.
4 years
2 lbs. 3 oz.

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