Early Saturday morning, before the sun even finishes its first cup of coffee, I find myself standing outside a local department store with my daughter stalking a hard-to-find gift for her brother.

“They are supposed to get seven in today,” she says as we pull into the parking lot. She’s been tracking a small computer game for weeks — crawling websites for intel like a hacker trying to break into the DNC’s email server.

Pulling up, we see a line of people sitting and standing below the unlit sign.

“How many people are in line,” she says as we slowly drive by.

“Six,” I say. As the passenger, it is apparently my job to scope out the competition.

“Good,” she says, pausing the car to drop me off while she pulls around to park.

Not even on a bet would I have believed I’d be up at 5 a.m. and standing in line for an electronic object I don’t even understand how to operate — particularly when the store isn’t scheduled to open until three hours later.

Nintendo something-or-another is all I know about our target.

We settle in behind the others. Two are seated in stadium chairs; others stand or lean against the exterior wall. The doors remain locked.

The conversation leaks toward my daughter and me.

“Yeah,” says the first person in line, a man in a T-shirt and shorts. “I’ve been tracking these all over. Shows they should be on the truck here.”

I find myself marveling how people have elevated shopping to such a sophisticated level.

A woman joins us, standing behind me. She shares that she recently left a 24-hour store two towns up the interstate after finding its inventory empty and a shipping manifest showing our local store would potentially have a couple on its overnight shipment. Doing the math tells me she’s already been up for hours.

What develops next is unexpected — at least from what the television news reports enjoy promoting. An odd camaraderie begins to form among these strangers.

“What are you here for,” the second in line asks the others. Everyone is doing the math in their heads, but this reveals not everyone is in line for the same item. A tangible relief rolls across the group.

The toy-seeking soldiers begin sharing war stories — of being in line in another location and coming up short.

“Last week, I was next in line and the guy in front of me buys two,” says a man with the beard. “I’m like, dude, come on. I’m right here.”

Others share their versions of near misses or arriving only to find their intel incorrect.

“Maybe the store employees got to them first,” says another after telling about such an experience. “You know it’s gotta happen.”

Oddly enough, we all bond. We laugh, we share stories, and we buy each other cups of coffee after the store opens. But in the end, we’re soldiers of fortune — only our target is a toy made in China.

President & Publisher of The Galveston County Daily News.

(4) comments

Keith Gray

Leonard when the boys wanted an XBox when they first came out, and they told me two weeks before Christmas... well lets just say, I'm not a 5:30 AM type of guy for a toy no matter where it is made. So I took a pic, put it in a giant box with a note that said, Merry Christmas your order will arrive January 23rd. It prolonged the excitement and when the box arrived on our doorstep, it was like a second Christmas morning... well except they understand that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ.

Merry Christmas to all, and be safe.

George Croix

Mr. Gray, been doing that same thing myself for over 3 decades when necessary for high demand purchases rather than stand waiting and feeling like exactly what I think everybody else in the waiting line looks like......[beam].

You can't always get what you want when you want it is the most valuable gift of all.

imho

Merry Christmas to all.

Jarvis Buckley

Strange bedfellows for sure.
30 days before our President leaves office, he takes his family on a 17 day vacation to
Hawai . At our government
Expense. Quite a guy.
Adios Mr. President.

Jim Forsythe

The president is taking a vacation like he always does.  . Protecting Donald Trump and his family is costing New York City more than $1 million a day, according to three city officials.
That's because Melania Trump and their 10-year old son Barron expect to stay at their home at Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan, at least until the end of the school year. And Donald Trump has indicated he plans to return home regularly, especially while they're still here. (how much will that cost)
I guess that you are upset with this cost to? To protect a president, it cost?

Updated Aug 12, 2014
This president, , “has taken 92 days of vacation since he was sworn in. How many did President Bush take by the same point in his presidency? Three hundred and sixty seven.
Bush eventually racked up 879, compared to Reagan’s 335.)

“Presidents don’t get vacations — they just get a change of scenery,” Nancy Reagan once said in defense of her husband’s frequent trips to his ranch in Santa Barbara, Calif.
During his first two years in office, President John Adams was criticized for making two lengthy trips to his home in Quincy, Mass., taking him away from the capital, which was then Philadelphia, for a total of eight months. Adams left Philadelphia to avoid a yellow-fever outbreak and then to care for his ill wife, Abigail. And his absence came at a time when the United States nearly went to war with France.
Even during the Civil War, historian Matthew Pinsker points out, President Abraham Lincoln spent 25 percent of his time, including fully half of 1862, at the Soldiers’ Home near Washington’s Petworth and Park View neighborhoods. Pinsker says Lincoln especially enjoyed going there on hot days because the cottage where he stayed was shaded and the slightly higher elevation picked up cool breezes absent from the White House.
President John F. Kennedy spent nearly every weekend of his shortened presidency at one of his family’s several properties. FDR made 134 trips to Hyde Park and spent an additional six months of his presidency in Warm Springs, Ga., where he treated symptoms of his polio. Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage while vacationing at Warm Springs on April 12, 1945.
The Secret Service is aware of the most tragic presidential vacation, when James Garfield was preparing to board a train for his first vacation as president in 1881 and was shot by an assassin

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