Sunday, December 25, 2005

A (Christmas) Tale of Two Many Cities

(If you can't read the text in the comic, click HERE for a bigger image.)

Last weekend I included in one post a “teaser” mentioning that I had gotten little sleep on Saturday night but would explain later. And no, despite the expectations and questions of some, my sleepless night had nothing to do with sex. No all-night debauchery of any kind was involved.

There! That got rid of the casual reader trying to satisfy his/her prurient interests. Now, on to my story.

My son-in-law Tom (Amy’s husband) is a certified gamer geek (see the cartoon above). Tom informed Amy several months ago that when the new Xbox 360 came out, he wanted one for Christmas. So when they were first released back in November, she waited until he left their apartment for work and hurried to her nearest Best Buy to get one.

As she and thousands of others found out that day, all of these gadgets had been snatched off the shelves immediately. Many people had spent the night outside a store to be early enough in line to get one.

Oh sure, she could have bought one from a “scalper” on eBay for well over $1000, but that was out of reach and out of reason.

She tried to let her husband know that there was no way he’d get one for Christmas, since there was no way she would be able to get her hands on one. He just laughed at her and said, “No, I know you! You’ll find a way to get one.”

Thus infuriated (and challenged), she launched a team effort including all her friends, her co-workers, and even her parents to join the search. Weeks passed, with no luck.

One co-worker (Jake), a gamer geek himself and part-time underground computer wizard, managed to find a web site that purported to know where shipments of Xboxes were going in advance of their arrival. That site informed him that Best Buy was getting hundreds of them, and would put out a nationwide newspaper ad on Sunday, December 18, announcing that they be sold on a first come basis when the stores opened Sunday morning.

Amy’s assumption was that other retailers might be getting similar shipments about the same time. Calls went out and her team swung into action, calling electronics retailers in Chicago, Norfolk (and surrounding towns), St. Louis, and more. Here in Victoria, TX, I learned that our local Sam’s Club had received a few but had put them on the shelves and sold them immediately. Target thought they might get some, and a re-stocking truck arrived daily, but they never knew in advance about the Xbox. I also checked the Toys-R-Us, and Hastings. No luck.

I figured my only chance was our Best Buy. I refused to spend the whole night outside the store (it was 42 degrees in Victoria that night), but I was willing to set my alarm clock for very early Sunday morning before the paper hit the streets and see if the line was short enough that I had a chance. Our Best Buy was supposed to get 24 of them, according to Jake’s web site.

I went to bed early and set my alarm for 3:45 a.m.

Ah, but do you think I went to sleep? HELL, no! All I could think about was getting up in a few hours to see how many people were in line. If I went over there now, was it already too late? If I waited until about 4 a.m. would I be too late? Should I go at some other time?

I dozed, and woke wondering what time it was and if there was already a long line. I dozed, and woke at 2:30. I woke at 3:15. At 3:30 I gave up, got up, put on 4 layers of clothing plus a windbreaker jacket and a stocking cap and went to Best Buy.

To my dismay there were over a dozen cars parked in the otherwise empty mall parking lot, and all were right in front of Best Buy.

As I approached the store front I saw bundles wrapped in sleeping bags. There didn’t seem to be too many, so I parked, got out, walked to the door and counted. 14! I ought to be early enough!

I took my place behind the last shapeless bundle on the sidewalk, and immediately a car door slammed. A young man walked to the spot behind me. He told me he’d been waiting in his car in warmth until he saw me come and decided he’d better get his place. Just then another car door slammed. This time a woman came to the next spot with a lawn chair and lots of blankets.

By 4:30 the young man behind me had called a cousin who brought him a quilt to wrap up in. Time passed, and the line slowly grew. By 5:30 it had exceeded the magic number of 24, and by 6 there were nearly 35 people in line. Other cars would roar into the lot, pull up and stop, wait long enough for someone inside to count heads, and then pull slowly away to leave.

Carol called me on my cell phone to report that the newspaper ad said our Best Buy would have a minimum of 20 Xboxes. I supposed that was why people were giving up – they had read the ad.

It was cold! Not bitter, freezing cold, but the light north breeze didn't help. Time passed as slowly as time does when you’re out in the cold with no shelter available and no possibility of moving for another two hours.

Fast forward ahead to 7:45. The store manager came out with “tickets” representing an Xbox 360. He gave one to each of the first 24 people in line and told us that was all there were. About 10 people left very disappointed. But I got one!!

I learned that the people just ahead of me in line had driven 2 hours to Victoria from Corpus Christi. Their Best Buy already had 50 people in line when they got to it at 10 p.m. prepared to spend the night. They drove immediately to Victoria, arriving at midnight, and became numbers 13 and 14. Behind me was a man from Karnes City (a one hour drive from Victoria), and several people from Houston (2 ½ hours away).

I "only" had to wait for just over 4 hours, and then was home in 5 minutes!

So, Amy got her husband an Xbox 360. It arrived at her home in Chicago on Friday, two days before Christmas. She has now convinced Tom that she was unable to get one for him. His surprise and delight should be complete.

And me? I’d like to say something like “It’s a far, far better thing that I did, than I have ever done.” (Which, for you who are not well read of Charles Dickens, is a quote from the end of “A Tale of Two Cities.)

But what I DID tell Amy was, “You and Tom OWE me BIG TIME!"

I couldn't post this story until today for fear that Tom might come across it and the secret would be out. My next post will contain a description from Amy of Tom’s reaction.


Anonymous said...

Great post!!! I'm glad Tom got his X-box, but he shouldn't have let himself be convinced that Amy couldn't get him one. He should know better by now. I don't think there's anything that Amy couldn't find if she wanted it bad enough. Like specific old magazines and such.

Tom Brister said...

To those who have struggled and sufferred in the name of my gaming happiness, God bless you! My X-box is all that I hoped it would be.
Special thanks to John for his early morning trek. Also to Jake, who gleened the critical delivery date and location information.

Merry Christmas!

kenju said...

Well aren't you the nice one!! I hope that they remember how much they owe you bigtime! Hope you had a wonderful Christmas too!

Karyn Lyndon said...

Tom got his X-box and you got an interesting blog post...sounds fair to me.

But then you tease us AGAIN with the "rest" of the fair!

Anonymous said...

That was a wonderful thing for you to do and I am sure you received a great deal of satisfaction having achieved the mission. I think you also received a great deal of satisfaction playing Father Christmas to adults *grin*.

Compliments of the Season John. Sending you and Carol love across the ocean.

Miss Cellania said...

I think the least you should get is a fine ribeye steak served directly to you after this. You done a good thing!

Anonymous said...

Maybe Tom will become a professional gamer and give you 50% of all his winnings!

That was a wonderful thing you did.

ddddddddddddddddddddd said...

Merry Christmas

Candace said...

Oh that is so SWEET! Was there no way to buy online direct from a retailer (not eBay)?
I'm sure Tom and Amy are already thinking up something wonderful for you, John.
Good show!

Duke_of_Earle said...

Some of these comments (all great!) require a response, so here goes:

Christina -- Your last sentence will be the subject for another blog post or two (it's a long story, after all) in the very near future. Personal things about my past will be revealed.

Karyn -- Yes, that was yet another teaser! Fair is in the eye of the beholder.

Candace -- Nope, no way. We all tried. All retailers (even online ones) were sold out, and some were pre-selling their expected future shipments with no guarantee when they might be available. It was crazy!

All -- Yeah, I made myself sound like a super nice guy, but that is all part of a family tradition kinda thing where members do somewhat extraordinary things for other members and extended family members. Especially where gift-giving is involved. Goes back many years. And it sure makes life fun!!

I'll tell more stories soon.