In 1996, the hot toy was, “Tickle Me Elmo.” Why, I don’t know. I’ve never understood the popularity of Elmo on Sesame Street, and really, what can you do with it after you’ve made it laugh 10 or 12 times?
Anyway, on Christmas Eve of that year Mom sent my brother, Jason, and me out to Toys R Us to get a few last minute toys for her grandkids – nothing big – stocking stuffers mostly. The most expensive thing we were sent to get was a video game for one of my nieces.
Now when you buy a video game at Toys R Us, you don’t actually pick up the game, pay for it, and leave. No, you pick up a representation of the game – a piece of cardboard that represents the game; it has the game’s cover art and upc bars on it. So you go through the check-out line, pay for your actual toys and your video game representation then get a special receipt that you hand (through a window) to a teller sitting in the protective video game room, and he or she gives you the game.
You get to stand in another line for this.
This other line, filled with people just like you, who paid money for a video game proxy, runs perpendicular to the regular checkout lines. That means, if everyone in the video game line is facing forward but then turned their heads to the right, you would be looking in the faces of the people in the regular check-out lines, waiting to purchase their goods.
Now imagine how loud a Toys R Us is on Christmas Eve with people talking, sacks rustling, songs playing over the PA, and registers ringing. Very noisy. Almost all that sound went away as everybody in the video game line, in the regular lines, and even the cashiers turned to look at us. Absolute silence except for the ominous playing of a Christmas song coming from the overhead PA system as we became the center of everyone’s attention.
Oh, the looks on the faces of the other customers. You could see in the eyes of some people that they were on the edge of going insane, having looked for the gift of the year and being unsuccessful. About two or three people had a big grin on their face as they winked at me or chuckled, telling me they got the joke.
Jason, however, wasn’t as amused. He whispered some very un-Christmas-like things to me, made a claim that he was going to get killed, and rushed off to the car at a pretty brisk clip. I spent another 15 minutes in the line and walked out to the car. Jason had all the doors locked and was huddled down in the passenger side.
~ author unknown