Sunday, November 25, 2007

a long, cold post about a long, cold night

My parents have a huge tv. And by huge, I mean of wooly mammoth proportions: a 60-inch screen, rear-projection behemoth that was WAY too large for their modest-size family room. And is probably near woolly-mammoth status in age, too. The red in the picture is completely gone and in the last few weeks, the blue has steadily started to wear away, too.

So this past August, for their thirtieth anniversary, my brother and I decided to get them a new one. Mostly because they didn't want us to throw them party or send them on a vacation, and we didn't want the milestone to go unrecognized. So H helped us find a great online deal on a 42-inch flatscreen HDTV. We were thrilled.

Unfortunately, my father was not. You see, when technological items enter our home, they rarely get to leave until they've become fossilized. My father is a very handy type of person who doesn't believe things should ever break or wear down, and somehow manages to resuscitate everything, from the '80s water heater to the vacuum cleaner he got as a company gift in 1979--we used that sucker until last year when Hoover discontinued making the vacuum bags it needs. And because we keep things forever, he's extremely picky about what we buy. In fact, he had some charger-thing on backorder with a tv repair shop for the woolly mammoth that is set to arrive and bring back the colors sometime in the next six months.

So the nice anniversary tv with all the colors went back before it even arrived at the house. I was disappointed, but not terribly heartbroken about saving the money. But now that the woolly mammoth is starting to lose blue, too, we decided something needed to be done. Even if it meant shopping during the nightmare that is Black Friday.

H mentioned that the electronic big-box stores were having some sweet deals this year and the tv we had bought and returned would be another $400 cheaper. If we were to get it, that is. But I had learned my lesson, and we got my dad to pre-approve a few models before we went out there. It turns out, he only liked one: a Panasonic flatscreen HDTV 1080p model, and we had to talk him down from a 50-inch to the 42. It was advertised on a non-BestBuy website as being for $899, normally $1799.

So we knew what we wanted and we knew where to get it. No big, we thought, Best Buy will open its doors at 5 am and we just have to show up a little earlier to make sure we get in. Right? But then H mentioned something about hearing that they gave out tickets of some sort at 3 am, and that you could only get those doorbuster deals if you had one. And then my brother's ex-girlfriend called to say that she saw on the news that people were already lining up around the block at the Best Buys around St. Louis, so maybe we should drive by and take a look at our chances.

So we headed over there. Not to the store in the bustling mall area, but one in a smaller town that we figured wouldn't be as crowded. And there was still a line nearly two blocks long. At midnight. Oh, and did I mention it was a whole TWENTY degrees in Chicago that night? It was a good thing that we both were wearing two shirts, sweatshirts, two pairs of pants, two pairs of socks, ski gloves, hats and scarves. But I still sent my bro home to get a folding chair and a couple of heavy blankets. And we were the amateurs! There were people with TENTS set up, and even a group with a propane-fueled heater. We were embarking on a serious mission here, and there certainly were some haters who drove by and shouted things at the line. One even threw a cup of coffee at people.

My brother and I took half-hour turns sitting in the car. H kept me company on the phone, but after he'd gone to sleep all I could think about were homeless people who didn't have many options for warming up and how I was doing all this for a freaking television. If it weren't for my parents, I'd have really thought again. I was sitting stiffly in the chair with a blanket around my legs and the heavier one over my head, and suddenly everyone got up and started RUNNING toward the entrance, leaving their chairs, blankets and empty thermoses strewn along the sidewalk like the wake of a tornado. It was quarter to 3 am. I didn't know what the hell was happening, but flung off the blanket and ran as fast as I could, hurdling all the debris.

People who got in line an hour after us were suddenly way ahead of me. There was a lot of grumbling camaraderie, and a woman who had done this many times before explained the drill: you get a ticket for the thing you wanted--no mercy for browsers--and if you're lucky enough to get one, you have until 9 am to claim your prize or else it'll be open to anyone. We grabbed the ticket for the tv and I held it to my heart. The very vocal black woman who had come all the way from Chicago told us that the other Best Buys in her area had lines twice as long at 11 pm and that she had her heart set on a laptop. The couple ahead of us (who really should have been behind us) wanted a TomTom at $119. We forgave their cutting because we weren't going for a tv.

By then, we had been in line for three hours and some minutes. My feet felt like sheets of glass that would probably shatter into a million pieces if stepped on or used in any way, and my brother said he didn't think he still had fingers. We decided not to stay for a second item and to go home to warm up and get a little rest. But first we wanted to verify that our ticket was getting us what we had hoped for, only to find that instead of 1080p, it was a 720p television.

So it turns out the deal we waited outside in below-freezing temperatures all night for wasn't quite as sweet as we had thought.

That was kind of a bummer, but we didn't want our wait to go to waste. Plus, if my parents had any idea that we were going to have to wait outside in the cold, they'd never allow us to do it or they'd yell at us for acting like fools for a tv that they'd say they didn't really need.

The tv is up and running, now with a gorgeous picture--with all the colors. No one really said much as far as praise; probably because very few televisions could live up to the hype created by what we went through to get it. But one thing's for sure, it's a giant step up from the woolly mammoth, and I'm sure as hell that nobody's going to complain.


Syar said...

I'm sure whoever did complain got a swift kick to the solar plexus, right?

That's sweet that you guys did that for your parents, but that's crazy. Reminds me of when Harry Potter came out and the Tesco here sold it for a whole 40 bucks cheaper.

However, Malaysia is tropical. So, we had no weather complaints.

So dang, Cadiz. You're hard core!

Anonymous said...

Quite a story. Like "Scott of the Antarctic" but with a happy ending.

omar said...

Huh. I think I got my parents a card and a restaurant gift certificate for their 30th. I hope they never read this.

marti said...

the things you do for your parents! i am glad the new tv was something they could use and need, and i hope your feet warm up soon!

Guyana-Gyal said...

And I thought I went out of the way to please my mother!

I NEVER knew this happened in 'merica. I thought it was just us with our lines for tickets for cricket...and not even that these days, as you can buy tickets well in advance now.

Al Gore would love your dad though, the great recycler. Just like a Guyanese, hahahaha.

Lia said...

My friend's brother waited in one of the BestBuy lines for many hours (I don't know how many, but something like you did), but no one told him about the tickets. So no, he didn't get his laptop, and he didn't get any sleep. And they're all teasing him to no end.

You're a good daughter! (Right there with ya, Omar!)

Librarian Girl said...

Oh my gawd! I have always wondered of things like that actually happened, of if it's just hyped up by a couple of places in the news. You have confirmed it to be totally true (and apparently ubiquitous)! That is a crazy, crazy story.

Uncommon Blonde said...

My sister-in-law went to Wal-Mart to be a "blocker" for one of her friends. She pushed and blocked while the other one grabbed what they wanted. She said she had some agression she needed to get out - you're dealing with some crazies at these things! Glad you came out of it alive

Sphincter said...

Whoa! Well, now you can say you lived to tell the tale. I hate line cutters. Who do they think they are?

Jon said...

I always look at those deals and think one of these days, I'll go too. but then I realize that I'm not into waiting outside a store for several hours before it opens just for the chance to maybe buy something...

Stephanie said...

You are hard core! This is why you're my hero(ine).