It was 7:58 a.m.

I glanced at the young guy to my left. “What are you here for?”

“Maybe a LeapPad.”

I turned to the older man on my right. “What about you?”

“I’d like a LeapPad.”

The manager of the local big box store unlocked the door. When the men pulled it open, her key was still in the lock. I quickly followed them inside. We trotted, jogged and finally sprinted to the toy department.

In a matter of seconds, I became one of those parents, the ones who embarrass themselves all in the name of their children.

As I was becoming something I hated, I heard the older man talking to no one in particular. “Well, if we’re going to run, I am going to run.”

With that, he shot past me like he was Road Runner, and I was, well, a rock sitting on the side of the road. I didn’t hear the signature Beep! Beep!, but that might be because I was so shocked and awed by his move that I couldn’t comprehend the sound.

We turned left. Young Man was in front, followed by Old Man, with Old Black Lady pulling up the rear.

Young Man arrived at the finish line and found — nothing. He and Old Man seemed surprised, as I checked up and down the shelf just in case the must-have toy had been shelved in the wrong place.  It wasn’t there.

That was Monday.

By Wednesday, I had learned why I couldn’t find the LeapPad. It seems in these tough economic times that no one wants to take the risk of warehousing products. No one — not the manufacturer, not the retailer, not even the distributor — wants to be left with unsold merchandise. All three want to make a profit, and that can’t happen if toys are sitting on the shelves.

I get that. Really, I do. But I can’t help but notice that this toy is a learning toy, that its sales are driven by parents whose children likely haven’t even heard of it, and that it has been dubbed the iPad for kids. That last one is the most important in my mind.

Simone and Nadia have asked for an iTouch and an iPad. I’m being stubborn by not buying one. First, it’s expensive. Second, after parents abandon toy gifts, there is no turning back. I’d rather hang with toys for as long as possible. Besides, we all know the price of the iPad and tablets like it will eventually come down.

I’m no economist. Still, I wouldn’t irritate parents with such shenanigans. Kids grow up and ask for more expensive things. Retailers, manufacturers and distributors might as well make as much money as they can, because the toy learning game market will be gobbled up by a much more sophisticated and easy-to-use device, in my humble opinion.

Which brings me to Friday. By Friday, I was done with the LeapPad shortage. I had employed the help of a big box store employee to text me if he saw what I was looking for. I had signed up for — and responded to — several electronic alarms that went off at all hours when LeapPads were in stock online. I came close, once getting the item into my cart, before it went poof. That was it, doggone it. If LeapFrog and all those middle men didn’t want to sell the device to me, I certainly didn’t want to buy it. After all, no one at my house was jumping up and down and begging pretty please for Santa to bring it on Christmas Day.

On Friday evening, my hubby forwarded an email to me. On Saturday at 6 a.m. a big box toy store would have many of those hard to find Christmas gifts. All I had to do was show up at an ungodly shopping hour.

What the H. E. double hockey sticks? I’d give it one more try.

It was 5:45 a.m.

I knew I was in the right place when I saw all of the bright lights and a short but growing line of people, wearing heavy coats and nursing huge cups of hot beverages. At the front of the line a small piece of paper noted that this was the line for LeapPads, one per customer. Fair enough. I took a quick count. I was the 10th person in line. At the appointed hour, a brave man opened the door and shouted the rules. There were 10 pink LeapPads and 10 green LeapPads. He would give us slips of paper, depending on the color we wanted.

Someone at the beginning of the line got more than one, and the nice man let the rest of us have two apiece. There was a bit of confusion for a moment and some people tried to give back their extra slips of paper. I told him I wanted one pink one, but I got two slips and was told I could keep both. There were enough to go around for the 13 people standing in line, and all the slips of paper were gone in about 45 seconds.

There were no last-minute sprints to the learning game area. There were no Road Runner moments.  The big box toy store with untold thousands of square feet that had opened at O Dark Thirty placed everything we wanted in one shopping cart. The cashier scanned my LeapPads, I swiped my debit card and out the door I went.

I’ll find out on Christmas morning if the little devices were worth all of trouble.


One thought to “O LeapPad”

  • Blanc2

    We’ve all been there. The nadir for me was a visit to Toys R Us in Emeryville, after work on December 24. An objective observer, surveying the scene without context, would have concluded either (a) the place had been vandalized by a gang of extremely malicious thugs, or (b) there had been a major earthquake. The aisles were heaped with junk so deep you had to wade through it.

    By the way, get the Xoom. It’s better than an I-Pad, and cheaper.

    And, also, make the leap from toys to grown up stuff sooner, not later. Remember that every toy you buy today will one day end up on a junk heap. Adult stuff too at some point, but at least it will be useful in the meantime.

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