After high school, I went to college. After spending most of my financial aid on alcohol and other substances, I dropped out. Then I worked as both a machinist and forklift driver for a while. Then I took off for Florida for a while, saving my money to eventually go back to college and do it right. The time came and I tried college again. To make ends meet, I shoveled coal at the power plant. I generally avoided spending any money (certainly not on alcohol and those other, ahem, substances) but still managed to run out of it. After working graveyard shift at a convenience store (with the added bonus of bringing home day-old donuts and sandwiches) and sleeping in my brother’s basement, I joined the army.
I had to wait 3 months before leaving for basic training, so I continued to work and sleep in the basement. Like I said, I worked graveyard shift so I would get to sleep at about six in the morning and was woken up several hours later by the same alarm clock every day, my three-year-old niece. She wouldn’t actually shake me or even make a sound, she just stood there staring at me until I woke. Then I would open my eyes to a cute little smile and a day of playing whatever she wanted. I couldn’t help but adore that kid.
This was 1983 and I found out I was leaving for the army the day after Christmas. This was also the year they introduced Cabbage Patch dolls. I found myself determined to get my niece one of those dolls.
Now, those of you who were around back then might remember the frenzy around these dolls. Stores would announce they received a shipment and the mob would respond. I never seemed to get the timing right to become part of the mob, until a couple days before Christmas. A local department store announced they had a shipment of the dolls, but only the first 100 people in line would get one. I was determined to be one of them.
I left work at six in the morning and drove to the store. The line was already long, but I decided to hope and wait in it to get this chance. At nine in the morning, the store door opened and a store employee began the count as she let people in line into the store. I lucked out being number ninety-nine. I followed the crowd and grabbed one of the last dolls before being bumped and having it torn from my arm.
“I SAW IT FIRST!” the woman yelled who had robbed me. Looking into her eyes, I swear I saw the pits of Hell! She ran away and I realized I was totally unprepared for this. I looked around and the dolls were gone. How could that be? We were only allowed a single doll each! I made my way towards the checkout to complain when a box containing a doll was kicked in front of me by somebody. With little hesitation, I grabbed the box, wrapped both arms around it, and got into line to pay for it. All in all, a rough experience, but the look on my niece’s face at Christmas made it worth every brutal second.
Through the years, I’ve seen these fads come and go. Never again have I had to go through the same experience. Fortunately, my kids weren’t into the fad toys so it never came up. I do know, however, that had I been to basic training before the onslaught in the store, that lady would have never torn the doll away from…oh, who am I kidding? There’s no training in the world that could prepare you for that situation. The shock alone of seeing people in that kind of frenzy gives you pause…at least it gives me pause.
There’s nothing scarier than an insane crazed mother getting what she wants for her child, um, except, perhaps, an insane crazed mother with a weapon…yeah, we’ll stay away from that one.