I must really love Osh Osh! Otherwise, why would I spend 2 1/2 hours in a small confined place filled with other equally insane parents, trying to grab hold of as many Lego boxes as they can carry, nudging, jostling and pushing each other just to move an inch each time?
Where was I? I was at the latest Toys R Us Lego Stock Clearance sale. This was my first time attending one of them. I was told that it was an annual event. I took an extended lunch break to go for this as today's sale was exclusively for Toys R Us Star Card members. The sale would be open to the public from tomorrow onwards. I can't imagine how crazy things would get for the next 2 days!
Firstly, I had to queue for an hour just to get into the confined area where all the Lego boxes were stacked up. It was at the atrium of a shopping mall. The atrium was barricaded with soft board walls, just high enough to prevent any desperate parents from climbing over it but low enough to entice you to stay in the queue as you could see what was available and the low prices for each item.
I felt a sense of panic rising from within when I saw parent after parent take box after box from the Power Miners range as these were the sets that Osh Osh wanted for his Christmas presents. I felt so helpless! I couldn't get in as the queue wasn't moving and the boxes just kept disappearing.
Finally, I was in! One of the Toys R Us' staff gave me their standard large blue shopping bag. I grabbed it and dashed to where the Power Miners boxes were. Praise God! There were still enough for me to take. The prices were at a 50% discount so I didn't hesitate in grabbing 3 different types of the Power Miners boxes. I asked another staff if these were the only ones available. I must have looked really desperate as he smiled a big comforting smile and said yes. Whew!
It ain't over till the fat lady sings, as they say. Well, there wasn't any singing voluptuous divas there. Instead, there was a dark skinned, skinny young man with bleached hair standing on top of a ledge of a side wall with a microphone. Every 10 to 15 minutes, he would make an announcement informing us that the queue for the payment counters was very long. "The end of the queue is where you see my colleague who's wearing the bright green cap. Yes, over there all the way at the back of the atrium." He urged everyone to be patient and assured all of us, tired and frazzled parents, that they are doing the best that they can to expedite the payments. He also cautioned us not to cut the queue as everyone in the queue would know who was standing in front and behind them.
I quickly located the man with the green cap and joined the queue. It was crazy. The payment queue was twice as long as the queue to enter the sale area. What was I thinking? Can I last till I reach the payment counters? I hadn't eaten lunch and it was already 1.45pm when I joined the payment queue. It was either that Toys R Us had a good marketing trick to make us queue around all the Lego boxes that were displayed or maybe, they just ran out of space for us to queue. Whatever the reason, I ended up taking another 3 boxes not related to the Power Miners sets but I thought Osh Osh would like them. I wasn't the only parent doing so. Numerous parents in the payment queue were picking up items along the way.
While I was queuing, I was praying, "Lord, please sustain me and not let me faint for lack of sustenance!" I decided to pay more attention to the various shapes and sizes of parents who were sharing the same faith with me. That was one of the ways to keep myself amused and not lose my temper each time someone bumped into me or stepped on my bag. There were expectant mothers. I was worried for a few of them as their bellies were so large that they looked like they could pop at any moment. However, none of them seemed worried. As a matter of fact, they used their bellies to their advantage as they had people give way to them to move about or they used their bellies to push their way through the crowd!
There were busy fathers in their business suits, either making phone calls or checking e mail messages on their Blackberries. There were young couples and old couples, presumably grandparents. Some like me, who knew exactly what they wanted to get, automatically zoomed in on the relevant Lego boxes. Some were undecided and followed others. Each time a parent picked up a box, there would be 4 to 5 parents picking up the same type of box, probably fearing that if they didn't take it then, it wouldn't be around the next time they walk past it. Never mind if it's not the type their child liked. It was sold at a really good price. That was just too juicy an offer to disregard.
Just as there were as many boxes being picked up, there were just as many being put down by the parents. They probably decided that they had taken too many boxes in the first place or that it was still too expensive or they found something better. I noticed a staff going around picking up boxes and items that were left in the wrong places and patiently weaving his way through the crowd to return them to their rightful places.
I was silently grateful that Osh Osh wasn't with me. I wouldn't have been able to cope with keeping an eye on him and struggling with the big blue bag. He would probably be cranky as he wouldn't have eaten either and his level of tolerance of crowd and noise is definitely much lower than mine.
After about 45 minutes later, I could finally see the payment counters! "Hallelujah!", I rejoiced! The people in the queue at this point appeared to share the same relief as me. They all started to smile, as opposed to angry glum faces earlier in the queue. Some of them even struck up conversations with each other. I overheard one middle aged man talking to 2 mothers, saying that he has 6 children and he's quite used to such sales as it would be impossible for him to buy all the toys his children wanted were it not for these sales. Information such as the ages and sex of their children were exchanged by many parents along with statements like "My husband is waiting for me out in the car which is why I have to keep calling him to keep him updated" and "I have to tell my friend to come earlier tomorrow".
It was finally my turn. I asked the cashier if he has eaten lunch. He smiled and said, "No, but it's ok. We're used to this." Another lady was packing my Lego boxes into large plastic bags and passed them to her supervisor. When I finally got out of the atrium, the supervisor passed the bags to me. I told her that this was my first time attending such a sale and I had no idea it would be this crazy. She smiled and said that there were parents queuing outside the mall at 6am. I was shocked and asked her if the mall actually opened so early. She said no and explained that they waited outside until the doors opened at 8am and queued at the atrium until 11am when the sale officially started. I would never be that insane! Or would I? Hmm...
I was relieved that I bought the items I wanted. As I walked out of the mall, it was pouring. I struggled with my umbrella, 2 big plastic bags and my handbag. I decided that it would be nearer to drop by DH's place of work and pass the bags to him so that he can keep them in the car instead of taking it all the way home by train. DH was working tonight and would only be back tomorrow afternoon. We discussed that he would only bring up the bags once Osh Osh is taking his afternoon nap in order for us to hide his Christmas (and possibly next year's birthday!) presents.
Dh couldn't stay long with me as he had a lot of work to tend to. I finally had lunch by myself and felt so exhausted. I thought to myself, "I wouldn't have gone to such a sale to buy something for myself even when I was single and had more free time." After today, I have learnt that there are certain requisite skills that a parent has to take great pains to hone. They are a healthy dose of insanity, coupled with the ability to starve, withstand physical trauma and still have the resilience to do it all over again, without any hesitation. Count me in...I'll be there for next year's Toys R Us sale!