Twenty trucks Garbage trucks
And it turns out what they want is trucks. Lots of trucks. Occasionally dogs, but mostly trucks.
I'd had a song stuck in my head for weeks. It was poppy and upbeat, not a bad earworm as earworms go, but I couldn't seem to get rid of it. When I picked up my friend one afternoon, I found myself absentmindedly humming it in the car. "Is that Guided by Voices?" she asked.
"No, " I said. I didn't want to admit what song it was. I tried to change the subject.
"Come on, " she pressed. "What is it? Why are you embarrassed?"
I passed her my phone and told her to open the browser. It would be first window to pop up, because I had watched it four times before I left the house that day. I had been watching it several times a day, every day, for three months. It was a song about a dump truck.
I discovered this strange alley on the toddler YouTube video map the same way every parent does: one morning at around 6 AM, my resolve to be the kind of parent who never hands his or her kid a screen to watch crumbled, bulldozed by my own exhaustion. I was bleary-eyed, and there were no real garbage trucks or cable repair trucks to be found on the pre-dawn streets to point at and observe. I recalled a fond memory of watching Labyrinth for the eight-hundredth time on my parents' living room floor, and then I searched "truck videos." We'd watch these videos together, both because it lessened my guilt and because I thought being able to identify every single part of a truck crane might be a cool parlor trick at dinner parties (the opportunity hasn't yet presented itself, so I might have to force it).
It wasn't long before I found Twenty Trucks, the channel responsible not only for "Dump Truck, " but such rousing hits as "Vacuum Truck" and "Feller Buncher." Later, I would become more specific when I hunted for truck videos—there are vast depths to plumb when you're searching for Internet truck videos, which occupy, apparently, a wildly popular niche. A YouTube search for "garbage truck song" yields more than 54, 000 results, and some of them are...well, you know, you might just have to go ahead and call them bad. From a critic's perspective, of course. Others have undeniable homespun charm, like this cheerful tune with 3.9 million views, but it's refreshing and rare when you hit upon anything that stands up to a second, third, or five-thousandth viewing.
Parents are often the forgotten audience members of toddler-oriented videos, our preferences (and ears, and eyes) dismissed because of the assumption (often correct) that we're just happy that our kids—perhaps flu-stricken, temporarily emotionally inconsolable, or waiting way too long for breadsticks to arrive at a restaurant—have found something calming to watch for three-and-a-half minutes.
The remote-controlled truck video niche (over 320, 000 results) is an interesting exercise in scale; one channel, RC Live Action, often pits high-quality toys against the elements, including tiny burning houses. Sometimes a human hand will intrude on the action, and you realize that you'd momentarily forgotten that these machines are toys.