Columnist Jeff Vrabel dismays about the Thomas recall and what it will do to his home sweet home.

Product recalls happen all the time, and if you're like me, you don't pay them very much mind, unless they involve the phrases "termite infestation" or "bursting into flames" or "may become self-aware and murderous."


But then again, most products don't wield as much influence over my daily existence as Thomas the Tank Engine.


Thomas the Tank Engine, for the uninitiated, is a folk hero who appeared to Egyptian prophets 700 years ago in a fiery vision; his legend has been handed down, generation by generation, through folk poetry and songs performed on a lute until in the early 1900s, when a toy company snapped up the idea and began producing hundreds of millions of small wooden train toys that come with blank, dead-eyed faces and cost enough to force parents into a troubling hypothetical choice: What's it gonna be, son, Thomas or college? As such, Thomas the Tank Engine has had the unified effect of entertaining American childen and making homes with American children in them look like a giant monster made out of toy-train parts just threw up on the floor. Also there are lessons about sharing or something in them. I don't know. Sharing is stupid.


Anyway, if I sound bitter, it's because when I get home from work I have to march into my son's Playroom and surreptitiously pilfer out of it a good number of Thomas toys, which will be highly difficult, because the Playroom is essentially what a museum exhibit on Thomas the Tank Engine might look like 300 years into the future. There is, in the Playroom, a Thomas train table depicting the trains' home, the Island of Sodor, which is lousy with Thomas flotsam. There are Thomas coloring books and pictures. There is a Thomas comforter on Jake's bed, which he evidently enjoys so very much that he sprays it nightly with a round of fresh urine.


I have to essentially steal from my son because of a problem reported by the makers of Thomas the Tank Engine, a company with the displeasingly nonmagical name of the RC2 Corp. that is apparently located in a quadrant of the Island of Sodor that is highly rich in lead, because they have recalled several dozen Thomas the Tank Engine Train Toys because of a possible lead paint poisoning hazard. Lead paint poisoning hazard! This consumer warning has been brought to you by the fall of 1973.


This brings up a number of questions, the first of which is: What in the name of Sir Topham Hatt's missing trousers is LEAD PAINT doing in a child's-toy-production facility? It is LEAD PAINT! (Lead paint, of course, if ingested, is toxic, and toxic in the bad way, not in the Britney Spears video way. Those wondering how a child could possibly ingest a small Thomas the Tank Engine have clearly not met my son, who made a habit out of chewing on track parts but has never been bothered to eat, say, bread.)


Most of the trains involved in the recall appear to be of a red variety, though there is also apparently trouble with a product entitled "Smelting Yard." Boy, I remember being a kid on Christmas morning, running down the stairs with childlike abandon to see if Santa had brought me a brand-spanking-new Smelting Yard.


The point is, there is no way I can do this, lead paint or no lead paint. Trying to remove the Thomas trains from Jake's room is OUT OF THE QUESTION. It would be like trying to remove a freshly shot varmint from the hands of Mitt Romney, or prying a freshly killed shark from the mouth of a dolphin. Jake would stab me, immediately, with a shiv made out of a Lego and wouldn't feel the slightest bit of remorse about it. So we're all going to start working on living with a trainyard that's possibly loaded with lead paint, but at least I can be relatively sure that it's not infested with termites.


Jeff Vrabel is a freelancer writer who wonders how the Thomas railway, with its abysmal safety record, can possibly manage to stay in business. He can be reached at www.jeffvrabel.com.