Monday, December 20, 2004

Shop til you drop

I have never really considered myself much of a risk-taker. Sure, I’ll abandon the occasional job without another one lined up during the worst recession my generation has ever seen, and once I bought and ate a cheesesteak from a guy standing on the side of the road, but for the most part, I like to play it safe. I always wear my seatbelt, avoid standing near trees during a thunderstorm, and never mix ammonia with bleach. So that’s why I still can’t figure out what daredevil spirit possessed me this weekend when I decided to do something that nearly cost me my life:

I went to a Toys ‘R Us at 11:00am on the last shopping weekend before Christmas. By myself.

I am a horrible procrastinator when it comes to holiday shopping, so I pretty much had to complete 90% of my shopping this weekend.

Since the list of presents for my nephews didn’t seem too intimidating, I wasn’t overly concerned:

1. Adam – Army guys and Lego’s
2. Elliott – Yu Gi Oh! and science stuff

I’m going to a Toys ‘R Us, for crying out loud – how hard can it be to find these items? Oh, silly little Jenny. Was I ever really that naïve?

First stop, army stuff. Adam likes battleships and army guys, so I headed straight for the G.I. Joe section. To my right were the little G.I. Joe action figures – they were all displayed in nicely sealed two-packs: one good guy and one bad guy in each. I grabbed the first one I saw – G.I. Joe vs. Venom – and although it looked pretty cool, I suddenly noticed the pack that was hiding behind the first one I grabbed. Wait! That one seemed even cooler because the one guy had a mask, and the other guy had a saber. Stop the press! The one underneath that one was better yet because the one guy had a grenade launcher and the other guy had antennas. Hold the phone…

Overwhelmed by the options, I threw all of the little G.I. Joe’s to the side and looked to my left, where all the big G.I. Joe’s resided. The first one I grabbed was the talking G.I. Joe. Let me tell you - the times, they are a changing. When I was a kid, talking dolls had a string in their back that you pulled, and a few different mechanical phrases came oozing out of some holes in their stomach. Eventually, the string snapped and you were left with a mute doll that looked like it had been blasted in the belly with a sawed off shotgun.

Now, the latest Talking G.I. Joe actually has a mouth that moves when you press his chest. I know what you’re all saying – “That sounds so cool!” Hold on to that thought for a minute, because you may reconsider. Here’s the thing – when you press Joe’s chest, his mouth actually opens, and he utters one word. Then you press his chest again and his mouth opens, and he utters one more word. Repeat this process three more times and you have just heard the creepiest sentence ever spoken.

Joe’s dead blue eyes stare through you as his cavernous mouth gapes open, and he says:


[press again – demon mouth opens]


[press again – demon mouth opens]


[press again – demon mouth opens]


[press again – demon mouth opens]


I was thoroughly traumatized by this evil G.I. Joe, and vowed never to inflict his terror upon my nephews. I let my mom buy it for them instead.

I decided to hold off on the army guys, and look for some of the educational toys that Elliott had requested. He’s a boy genius, so he asked for some LeapPad Magic School Bus Does Trigonometry thing. When I asked for some assistance, a poorly paid and under-enthused stock boy grunted in the general direction of the Imaginarium Station, which is where all the smart toys are located.

I’m not sure if it’s intentionally designed this way, perhaps so that you can never escape, but the Imaginarium Station is laid out much like the hedge maze in The Shining. I walked down one corridor and found all the overpriced LeadPad books. Then a left turn took me to the science section, littered with telescopes and Sea Monkeys. Another left turn and I wound up near the Dora the Explorer Vocabulary Builder section. A quick right led me straight into LegoLand, which is directly in front of Cheap Lego Knock-Off Land.

Wait – did my brother say Elliott likes astronomy or geology? Does he like bugs, or was that last year? Are Pokémon and Hi Hi Puffy Amiyumi the same thing?

With each wrong turn, I started to feel my body temperature rise, partly because I still had on my huge winter coat and a turtleneck sweater. A steady trickle of sweat began to drip down my back, as my breathing became more and more shallow.

Over the loudspeakers blared the shrill voices of children singing on the Nickelodeon Christmas Album, interrupted only by the squawking commands of Toys ‘R Us cashiers looking for price checks and stockboys.

“Christmas, Christmas time is here. Time for joy and time for chee- ANGELA PLEASE REPORT TO THE CUSTOMER SERVICE DESK IMMEDIATELY. ANGELA TO THE CUSTOMER SERVICE DESK -I still want a hula hoop!”

My vision started to dim, and my mouth got very dry, so I knew I needed to get some fresh air quickly. I turned left to exit the Imaginarium Labyrinth and ran head on into a woman and her four children arguing over which Lego set to buy. When I spun around to avoid them, I was trapped by three people waiting in line to do price checks at the self scanner.

As I struggled to squeeze my body between an overloaded shopping cart and a Lincoln Log display, I felt my arms go limp and my knees start to buckle. My last words before hitting the ground were, “Yu Gi Ohhhhhh…”

I’m not sure how long I was out, but when I woke up, all I could make out was something red and furry chuckling and moving toward me. I rubbed my eyes and said, “Santa? Is that you? I… I’ve been good this year. Did you get my letter?”

When I wiped the drool off my cheek and put my glasses back on, I saw that it wasn’t Santa moving toward me, but a sale bin of Hokey Pokey Elmos that I must have set off on my way down.

I brushed myself off and stumbled toward the nearest exit, revived by the blast of wintry air that met me. Once I made it back home, I did what I should’ve done all along – stayed inside the confines of my home and purchased all my gifts online. Clearly, if the good lord had intended me to interact with live human beings, he wouldn’t have given me DSL and a secure Visa card.