I really can’t explain why every year on the day after Thanksgiving, otherwise sane people lose their minds. Many, even before dawn, rush out to their favorite big-box store for a chance to claim the bargain of the century — usually some overrated item of inferior quality that they don’t even need.
I’ve always been smug about separating myself from people who fall prey to retailers’ high-pressure marketing blitzes designed to turn nice people into predaceous, shameless Christmas shopping warriors. Stampeding through stores, racing for that one, must-have, highly publicized article — of which there is always a shortage — they trample anything that gets in their way.
I have never engaged in such behavior. But … I must confess there was that one holiday season when I came close.
It haunts me still.
“Mom, look. Here’s that toy I’ve been wanting.”
Filling the TV screen was Furby, the adorable, interactive, battery-powered “pet” predicted to be that year’s must-have toy. For Furby’s manufacturer, the hype would mean millions of added revenue. For hordes of consumer puppets (i.e., parents), it meant only one thing: The annual Christmas-shopping war was under way.
I had no intention of doing battle for a toy and told my son he’d have to wait until after Christmas when the Furby furor had finished.
However, just two days later — i.e., “Black Friday” — while my son and his dad scoured the malls for Furbies, I stayed home phoning stores. Sadly, responses were identical. Everywhere, supplies had been depleted.
Clearly, we were in the throes of a Furby crisis. I feared even fervent efforts to find a Furby would be futile.
At our house, the frenzy over Furby would have ended there had it not been for the “secret” shared with my son by a cashier at an Indianapolis toy store. A truckload of Furbies was expected for the store’s six o’clock opening the next morning, she told him.
“So, can we go, Mom? Huh?” he pleaded. “Pleeeeaaaasse?”
No way was I going to be separated from my bed three hours before dawn on a Saturday to drive 45 miles to fight a mob of crazed shoppers and shell out hard-earned cash for an overpriced child’s plaything.
The buzzer on my clock radio jolted me out of a sound sleep at 3:45 the next morning. On school days, repeated vigorous shakes were required to wake my son. But that morning, after one gentle nudge, he was on his feet, raring to go.
Soon we were in the car, toottling along desolate country roads, enveloped in starlit blackness, headed for the Indianapolis toy store. Matt and I giggled hysterically at one another’s silly jokes and our mocking renditions of the golden oldies blaring from the radio. We marveled at how different our familiar world operated when its inhabits slept. Who would guess that at 4 a.m. all the traffic lights in town became amber flashers — beacons for motorists, like us, on a mission? And what a surprise to discover the belt of Orion, which we had always viewed in the eastern skies, at four a.m. was melting into the western horizon.
Despite our levity, I wondered how many other kids had been privy to the overzealous cashier’s tip.
“Don’t be disappointed, honey,” I warned. “If there’s a big crowd, we might not get your Furby.”
“I know,” he answered, emoting somber wisdom at least a decade beyond his years. “That’s OK. At least we tried.”
We pulled into the store’s driveway at precisely 5 o’clock. Except for a half-dozen empty cars iced over in frost, the lot was barren. Nevertheless, maintaining optimism, I parked close to the front door to maximize our advantage over the mob soon to arrive.
Fifteen minutes passed. Thirty minutes passed. Forty-five minutes passed.
No mob showed up.
In fact, no one showed up.
The anticipated 6 a.m. opening was only two minutes away, when the store’s manager peered through the plate glass window at us.
He shook his head at me. I shrugged.
I like to think it was a selfless sense of humanity rather than the condescending, pompous arrogance he projected that compelled him to step outside and strut over to our car. Through my half rolled-down window, he reported, “Ma’m, we don’t open for two more hours.”
I thanked him, although gratitude was blatantly absent from my tone. As he walked away, I called out to him. “And I’ll bet you’re not getting a shipment of Furbies today either.”
Over his shoulder, he hurled a terse reply.
“No, and we have no idea when we’ll get more.”
I wish our little quest had a better ending — the one where valiant efforts reap the desired reward. But that was not the outcome in this case. My son and I returned home entry-handed and slept till noon.
Through these ensuing years, I have realized that, although I failed to give my son the material gift we set out to claim, he came away with something of far greater value — lessons he can use his whole life.
For example, rising hours before our bodies wanted us to was an exercise in self-discipline. Our fun and laughter demonstrated that entertainment was possible anywhere, even without toys. Waiting a full hour for the store to open provided a lesson in patience. And finally, pursuing our goal, even against unlikely odds, showed my son that if you do your best, there’s no room for regret.
So … I’m proud to say, that day my son went Furbyless.
And thank goodness.
What he ended up with, I wouldn’t trade.
Not for a Furby. Not for two Furbies. Not even for a whole truckload.