Saturday, January 24, 2009

Friday Night Blockbuster

When my son scurried through a tiny porthole in the bottom of the indoor slide at daycare excitedly repeating “hiding, hiding” instead of letting me help him with his hat and coat, I should have seen the signs and abandoned my plan to stop at Blockbuster to pick up a film for the evening. But like the captain who foolishly attempted to steer the Titanic through a minefield of floating ice, my trip to the movie store was doomed from the start.

The moment we entered the store, the boy was off like a blonde comet. His hair flowed straight back over his head as he shot down the nearest aisle chanting, “running, running”. When I finally caught up with him, he had stopped in front of a rack of animated films and was clutching the Kung-fu Panda 2-Pack with both hands. The promotional slogan on the DVD case read, “Pure Pandamoninum,” which quite accurately described the havoc the boy was about to wreak upon the store.

Faster than Po snatching a dumpling with his chopsticks, the boy was off and running again. He hit the brakes when he spotted the animated Pixar film Cars, but was back in high gear the second he had the DVD placeholder in hand. I used the mirror along the top of the wall to find him after he whipped around the corner and disappeared. A disciplined Army soldier in camouflage fatigues employed stood stoically by, avoiding engagement by ignoring the father-son tag game taking place around him. I grabbed the boy, returned the marker to the shelf and had just enough time to grab a copy of Wall-E before the boy began to squirm wildly. I set him down and, once again, he sped off.

This time when I caught up to the boy, he had reached the front of the store and was trying to carry a cardboard M&M’s candy display in his arms. He set it down when I approached and pointed to a graphic of a Christmas tree in a wagon and told me, “wagon! wagon!”. I straightened the display and picked the excited boy up and headed toward the foreign films section to find the English-subtitled film Amorres Perros

The boy managed to stay with me for about 30 seconds as I perused the various foreign titles. I barely had time to finish reading the first few rows when the boy got bored and raced off. I renewed the chase and found the boy showing off a copy of a Spiderman game made for Nintendo’s Wii to smiling woman. I was proud to hear the boy say “Spiderman” so enthusiastically.

I didn’t have time to stay and chat, the boy was dashing away at full speed again. I heard him say “choo-choo” from the next aisle. I sprinted around the corner and found a Thomas the Train DVD lying despondently on the floor and spotted the boy at the end of the aisle with a copy of a PowerRangers movie. He said “scary” when I approached. Scary, I thought? The only thing scary about the PowerRangers is their dorky costumes and lame storyline.

The boy knocked a couple more movies onto the floor and bolted around the corner. I passed the woman again and she said, “Looks like you’re doing a good job wearing him down, Dad.” I not-so-wittily replied, “Well, one of us will be worn down by the time we’re done. We’ll see.”

A hat? Where did the boy get a hat? I panned around the back of the store and spotted a pile of Indiana Jones ball caps on the floor. The boy must have pulled the hanging hat display down. I did my best to reattach the clip strip and rearrange the hats, but (does this sound familiar yet?) they boy was off running again.

I grabbed a copy of Max Payne as I swooped down and picked up my speedy son. I was determined to finish looking through the foreign films to find Amorres Perros. Of course, within 15 seconds or so, the boy was done being held and wandered off at a bit slower pace as if he knew he could slip away unnoticed if he took his time.

I wasn’t having any luck finding my movie, so I went looking for the boy. Just then, he came around the corner proudly showing me a baseball in his raised hands. I asked him where he had found a baseball and then noticed a chuckling man in a gray hooded sweatshirt with a baseball glove tucked under his arm. He overheard me tell the boy to give the ball back and said, “No, it’s his ball now. He wants to be a baseball player.” The boy tossed the ball lightly to the man, who then tossed it back in a failed attempt to get my son to catch it. While they played, I frantically searched the movie titles in front of me for a better option than Max Payne. The man’s teenage son approached with a puzzled look when he saw his baseball in my boy’s hands.

I saw the man and his son leave as we entered the line to check out. I had intended to give the ball back, but the two left the store without even a look back.

I was irritated to find a slow-moving line waiting on a single cashier. This was it. The ship had hit the iceberg the minute we entered the store; had taken on water with every chase down the aisles; and now that I was trapped in a glacially slow line surrounded by every type of tempting candy and novelty toy imaginable, the ship was now breaking in half and about to sink into the icy sea.

The boy couldn’t contain himself. He shook the Skittles. He threw SweetTarts on the floor. He pretended to drink the small candy soda bottles. I showed him how to press the button on some gizmo to make a helicopter’s rotors spin. That held his attention for about five seconds and elicited a “yay” before he cast it aside and grabbed something else.

I tried holding him, but anyone who has ever experienced the dreaded “arched back” temper tantrum precursor knows when to put a toddler down to avoid a major meltdown. I opted to simply pick up and replace everything the boy dropped. I noticed a second Blockbuster employee who seemed to be restocking shelves. It occurred to me that he fit the typical movie store worker stereotype: Late thirties, balding, overweight, unshaven, saggy, worn blue jeans barely held up by a tattered belt, and thick, dark-rimmed glasses. I watched him closely to see if he’d open the second register, but he didn’t even glance at the line of impatient customers.

Finally, we were next in line. I was grateful that we hadn’t had anything too embarrassing happen yet. But the boy became fixated on a large, plastic carton of Sour Gummi Worms and wouldn’t put them down. He slipped around the back of the display and out of my sight, so I went after him. The boy jammed the carton of chewy candy onto the rack from the back side, knocking a number of containers onto the floor in the process. We were so close to paying for our movies and sailing the life raft to safety! Instinctively, I dipped down and picked him up with one arm and tried to sneak through a small gap in the displays before I lost my spot in line. I made it through fine, but the boy’s legs swung around and sent an entire box of framed posters reeling. One by one, in slow motion, the posters pitched forward and crashed to the floor.

As I stared down at the Joker’s twisted, red smile, a cold sweat gathered on my forehead and I muttered in exasperation, “This is all pretty funny, eh?”

The cashier and the other previously unmotivated employee rushed over to pick up the frames. I took stock of the faces of the other customers in line, which ranged from amused to annoyed, to angry. The ship was vertical now and sinking fast.

And then, like a captain resigned to going down with his ship, with nothing left to lose, I lost my temper and called out in frustration, “Where’s the second cashier on a Friday night? Look at this line!”

The patient girl ignored my outburst and completed our checkout with a vexed smile. At last, the boy and I drifted through the exit, wet and cold, but still afloat. We had managed to cling to Wall-E and Max Payne just long enough to avoid the spinning vortex of the sinking ship and the icy depths below.

1 comment:

  1. wow! what a night! you should see "marley and me." it seems marley and the boy have some things in common. hope the movies were worth it. i loved wall-e.