Family Fiends: November 18, 2006 – Waiting for a Wii
November 18, 2006.
I remember it being a cold, but clear evening, and things were much more simple then. Our current family of 5 (not including a dog), was only a family of three (minus a dog). Our eldest, my now 13-year-old stepson who is now about 3 inches taller than my wife Hanna, was a cute and innocent 7-year-old, and easily a foot shorter than his mother. He was off with his grandparents that evening, and my wife and I had the night to ourselves.
She and I, having been married almost a year and a half, were also expecting our first child together in the spring. In another week we would learn the sex of our baby, and would gleefully share the news with my parents during our Thanksgiving celebration. Hanna was nearly 5 months pregnant, and being in her second trimester, the morning sickness was long a thing of the past. It was a good thing, too, as we were about to embark on one of our grandest (and geekiest) endeavors to date: we were going to try and brave the crowds, to stand in line, to get ourselves a Wii for the holidays.
I’m not even sure that I really wanted a Wii. 11 months earlier, I was lucky enough to find a Circuit City that was had Xbox 360s in stock, after searching for what felt like weeks and months. Between that and the PlayStation 2 and GameCube, we had plenty of video game systems to play. We certainly didn’t need another video game console. But there was something special about this system. It was different. The idea of motion controls was an interesting concept. Before the Wii, the only way to play a game was with a controller, using buttons and directional pads and thumb sticks. Using your body to move was something that your parents or non-gaming friends cutely did out of instinct when taking corner too sharply in a game. As if leaning into that hard press of the controller’s thumb stick would make everything more precise.
The idea of gesture-based video game was limited to the Nintendo DS. In November 2006, there was no such thing as an “app” and the innovation of the iPhone was easily another 6 months away.
Hanna and I had talked over the idea of getting a Wii as a family gift for Christmas. We could see something appealing for each member of the family, and with the night being young, and our schedule being open (something that is very, very rare today), we decided to head down into Virginia to scope out one of the local Toys R Us, that was rumored to be having a midnight sale. If we were to get there early enough, it might be possible to get one.
So we heading down into Alexandria to the Kingstowne shopping area. We loved going there as there was a nice assortment of restaurants, with plenty of parking. It was a good alternative to dining and shopping in Arlington, and ten times easier than Georgetown was.
We drove by the Toys R Us, and noticed a pretty decent line outside of the store. It wasn’t long, but it was long enough that I became skeptical. We decided that before we committed to any line-waiting, that we’d need to get some food in our bellies. We dined at, of all places, Taco Bell.
During the meal of gorditas and taco supremes, we discussed the pros and cons of waiting in line. We both agreed that we would be the coolest parents in the world for getting a Wii. The cons, and there was really only one, was that Hanna was nearly 5 months pregnant. It wasn’t even 8pm on a Saturday night, it was pretty chilly out. We’d have a nice, long wait in line.
Being the pregnant trooper that she was, Hanna thought the wait would be worth it. Even though we’d be hiding the system in the small closet in the master bedroom for more than a month until December 25th, the payoff on Christmas day would make this night one to remember.
The next plan was to go to Toys R Us, scope out the line, and try and talk with somebody in the store to see how good our chances were. If we were going to be waiting in line for another 4 hours we needed some sort of guarantee.
When we found a helpful employee who, while he wouldn’t give any numbers, told us, without being told, that if we were to get in line right now, that our chances were pretty good to score a Wii tonight.
So we did.
But we really weren’t all that prepared. We didn’t bring any warm blankets or folding chairs to sit on. We had our coats, and I had an emergency sleeping bag that I always kept in the trunk of my car. And that was about it.
We stood in line the line began to form longer and longer behind us. The people around us were nice. I remember a small group of gamers in front of us, and a mother and child immediately behind. Thankfully, nobody around us was loud or obnoxious.
The Toys R Us remained open until about 9:30 or 10, allowing my wife and I to switch off for “pee breaks” or to go inside and kill the monotony of standing in a dark line in the cold, as well as to warm up.
Once the store hours ended, Toys R Us was off limits to anybody, and that’s when the real waiting began.
At one point, I drove off to the quick mart across the way to get some coffee for myself and some hot chocolate for Hanna. The other stores in area had closed, too. All of the big-box stores except for Best Buy had empty parking lots. Soon, even the fast food restaurants like Taco Bell, were closed to everybody except for the drive thru.
After a while of waiting a store manager came out and started greeting people. Earlier on, the folks waiting at the beginning of the line, started putting together an unofficial list of people’s names in line. They did so to keep people honest, and to avoid situations where somebody might skip to the front of the line, or for those who may be holding a place for their a dozen of their friends, who would conveniently show up minutes before midnight.
The manager informed us that they received the list, and would be using that list when people would finally be let in. They came through, and verified each person’s name. My wife and I had put both of our names down, hoping to buy one Wii for Christmas and sell the other one on eBay. We were told that because we both shared the same last name that they would only count us as one. While we liked the idea of some desperate sucker paying us three times the worth of the Wii, just to get one without waiting was, we were fine if we could walk away with just one. We took it as another affirmation that we were going get a Wii tonight.
When midnight finally rolled around, the Toys R Us opened up and people were being let into the store! There were cheers of excitement when the first set of people walked out of the store, holding a massive bags plastered with the Wii logo! The cheers continued on for another dozen or so people, and after that the excitement started dying down, and the envy started setting in. Would we be getting one tonight? How embarrassing would it be to be the first to walk out with teeny tiny bag: “Sorry, folks! They’re all out of Wii’s, but they have plenty of nun chuck attachment controllers!”
As we got closer and closer to the door, we saw the power of the unofficial list at work. Some people had obviously cut in line, and were turned away. “But we were in line hours ago and had to run home!” they pleaded. Obviously, the ones that had been standing in line for more than 4 hours, had little sympathy for them. Their loyal line-holder would come away with a Wii, but they wouldn’t.
Once we made it into the store, Hanna and I started feeling pretty good. It was a little eerie, though, being inside the store after hours. They had us following a path that ran past the store’s main registers, but none of these were open or running. The line followed the registers and then wrapped back around leading to the electronic’s section. It was the only part of the store that was really open. Store employees stood around keeping an eye on people and making sure that we didn’t start straying off (other than to visit the rest room) to start window shopping for other things (as if any of us really wanted to do that).
After about 30 minutes of being inside the store, and slowly inching forward as those ahead secured their purchases, we noticed that the line behind us had an end. It went back about 20-30 people. While it was a little shocking to see the line that likely ran around the back of the store reduced to a much smaller number, we finally started breathing easy that a Wii would be ours.
It was just before 2am when we finally made our way to the register. They had run out of extra Wii remotes, but we were able to get a system, the nunchuck attachment, and a couple of games: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Rayman Raving Rabbids.
By the time we walked out of the store, with an awesome Christmas gift in hand, we were both exhausted. We we returned to our little apartment, it was well after 3am, and we were both ready for bed.
As a drifted off to sleep that night, I couldn’t have been happier. Standing in line was the geekiest thing I’ve probably ever done, and I did it with a willing participant — my pregnant wife. And in just over a month, on Christmas Day, we’d have the happiest 7-year-old in the world.
Now, if there was only a way for me to “test” out the system before then.
(And because an early peek at the Wii never happened, there was pretty excited nearly 30-year-old man who was excited and geeked for his 7-year-old stepson to open the gift on Christmas Day.)