Ron Hellman was close to being the man that I wanted to be. That's how I saw him when I met him. If I had had Tee's
perspicacity I would have know better. His last sortie would not have surprised me [...]
Clocks were Ron's passion, but games were his living. He'd left the bosom of advertising fifteen years before to pilot the waters
of invention, creating games and toys. You won't have heard of any of his board games. They float a hundred "Wall Street This"
and "Madison Avenue That"s to come up with one "Monopoly". You may, however, have heard of one of his toys. Ron was the
inventor of the Oobi. "Oo" as in "do" and "shubeedoobeedo".
Oobi was a clam-like piece of orange-red plastic, three inches by two and a half inches in diameter and about an inch tall, with
two big eyes printed on. Amused eyes. Soulful eyes. There was also a message printed. "Hi! I'm Oobi. I'm going to visit..." and
a blank to fill in a name and address. The idea was that, say you're living in New Jersey and you've got a friend in Oregon, and
you've sent them letters, and you've talked on the phone, but they're still three thousand miles away. Well, you buy an Oobi, and
you put a message in - Oobi was hollow, with a slot. You wrote on the outside, I'm going to visit "Joyce at 1000 Washington
Street, Portland, Oregon", or whatever. Then you leave the Oobi in a public place somewhere, a dinner counter, a washroom,
and somebody picks it up. "Hey, I'm going in that direction." So Oobi hitch-hikes from counter to counter: encounter to
Oobi was a child of the sixties, connecting people with goodwill. That's an idea that sold in the sixties. The idea sold. It sold
songs. And it sold Ron's creation to a big toy conglomerate who spent several million dollars manufacturing and marketing
Oobi. But Oobi didn't fly. And Ron Hellman, father of Oobi, like most of my readers, had never had his day brightened by a
message passed from hand to hand: "Hi! I'm Oobi!" So Oobi died. Ron had just two surviving Oobis left. He gave us one. It was
quite an honour to receive the penultimate Oobi. [...]
The penultimate Oobi was sitting on a shelf in the bathroom. His soulful eyes had warmed me in those weeks he'd been with
me. His orange-red plastic presence [he spoke of "friendship" to me] his presence actually seemed to glow. Now he would
soothe my wound. I put him in a box, and sent him through the regular channels, the post, the mail, not risking him to the hazards
of the hitch-hiking life he was contrived for. I sent him surely back to Ron, so Ron might one time get to open an Oobi. A little
slip of paper tucked inside. "How sad," it read.