The buzzer went off at three in the morning.
Three in the morning. Shit, I haven't been up that early since...well, since...
Hey, have I EVER woken up that early?
Quietly, I rose from the bed and snuck past Theo, sprawled out on the bed, his mouth hanging open. I moved to the kitchen and grabbed the jeans and sweater from the night before, and threw them over my pajamas. I was going to need all the heat I could gather for the journey ahead.
For you see, my friends, it was time for that most elusive quest in all of Suburbia. I had chosen to heed the call of...
The hunting of the Wii.
Being careful not to wake anyone, I grabbed my keys and snuck out of the hotel room that we had called our home for the week-end. I had originally planned to go to the Target in North Eldredge where my daughter's fiancee, Slacker Chad, worked, but the weather forecast had predicted snow, starting at midnight, and our hotel was near Worcester. Thankfully, Corb got a hot tip from a co-worker that a shipment of 74 Wiis was coming in to Best Buy that same day, which I confirmed on the phone the night before. That Best Buy was only five minutes away.
All was completely quiet when I hit the parking lot. The snow hadn't yet started falling, although all the signs were there. Quietly, wishing for a coffee, I climbed into my car and drove out of the hotel parking lot, down the road. Into the fray.
There was no fray, when I arrived at Best Buy. The store was dark and the parking lot was empty, except for one 18-wheeler. I parked the car in front of the store and turned on Howard Stern for company. Nervously, I played with the heat, turning the car off for five minutes, letting the chill creep in on little cat feet, and then, turning it back on.
Slowly, however, they started to come. At 3:30, a Chinese woman pulled her mini-van up to my stang. She rolled down her window. Half fearing that she was trying to pick me up, I reluctantly rolled down my window. "They have Wiis here?" she said.
"Sure do," I replied.
She nodded and drive past me into the next aisle.
Slowly, the parking lot started to fill up. First two cars, then five. Then fifteen. We all sat there, our engines idling. I glanced around nervously, checking out each and every car. My rivals.
The snow started to fall around 3:50. At first, delicate, hesitant flakes, quickly growing in intensity until it was necessary to turn on the wipers to keep a cautious line out for the front of the store. For that ultimate moment, that moment when...
I sat there, waiting to see who was going to make the first move, who was going to be the first to crack. It was like High Noon, a gun duel in the Wild West. Who was going to be the first person to crack open their door?
At 4:15, I heard the first door open. Like animals hunting their prey, we all reacted, instantly. Twenty doors opened quickly, twenty weary bodies stumbled out of their cars and shuffled their feet to the front of the store.
However, we all observed the rules of the hunt in a way that only polite society would. We all respected the turf of the first person that reached the store, forming an orderly line that started to wind its way down to the end of the store.
And then, we waited. In the freezing cold.
Five minutes into the wait, the second person in line turned around. He was a stout man, with a thick red nose, and he looked around and said, "Shit. I'm still drunk from last night. Why else would I be standing here at four in the morning?"
Everyone started laughing. The man, gloveless, reached into his pocket, shivering. "Oh, look," he said, pulling out a can from his pocket. "I've still got some beer!"
"Hey," said another guy. "Don't you feel bad for those poor parents waiting for their Wiis in South Florida?"
"Yeah, they don't know how good we've got it!"
"I'm losing feeling in my feet," complained one lady, behind me.
"Oh yeah? I'm losing feeling for my KIDS!" said someone else.
"All I know is, my son better bow down before me on December 26," said the man in front of me.
"Hell yeah," said his father, who had come along for the ride. "They'd all better build a shrine!"
Everyone laughed. Then, there was a pause. And then I heard, from the back of the row:
"Does anyone remember Cabbage Patch dolls?"
At that point, a large Best Buy van made its way from the back of the store. The driver stared at us, grinned, and gave us a "thumbs up" sign. Then, he honked his horn and drove off. A small cheer went up.
Finally, at six in the morning, after two hours in the freezing cold and snow, the doors to Best Buy parted. A young guy, no older than 25, approached the line. The drunk man walked over and gave him a big hug.
One by one, we accepted our reward--a slip of paper guaranteeing a Wii when the store opened.
I was number seven.
At 6:15, I crawled back into my bed, content with the fact that I had completed my mission. But more than a little bit cold--I had to turn up the fireplace and steal one of Theo's blankets in order to stop my teeth from shaking. But hell, after what I had gone through, he could spare it.
When did it come to this? When I was a kid, my parents spent $100 apiece on each kid--that was it. One year, my father took care of our entire Christmas shopping one Christmas eve. He headed out, loaded up the back of the car, then returned home and piled up our toys into four little bundles.
This year, I started planning Christmas about a month ago. That Wii alone would have taken up my presents, my brother's, and half a sister. Lordy, Lordy, look how far we've come...