At 4:30 a.m., I looked across the parking lot at the figures huddled in canvas chairs. I swore I'd never do this. I was about to queue up to buy a video game.
My son and I had played one weeks before. The unique controller translated arm/hand motions into game actions. Boxing? Take a controller in each hand. Now, box. Weave. Dodge. You'll be pummeled into a virtual hospital if you don't get that left up!
My homeboy Phil, pony-tailed gamer and Wal-Mart electronics manager, told me they'd have a dozen up for grabs at 8 a.m. I made a note to watch the local obits to see what method the Wal-Mart police used to dispose of him for his insolence.
4:45 a.m.: Time to get in line. When I walked up, they yelled "Number seven!" like some sort of surreal sushi bar.
The first kid in line and his best friend (No. 2) had been there since 6 freaking p.m.
Nos. 3 and 4, a kid and his mom buying two (one to keep, one to sell on eBay), had arrived around 2:30.
No. 5 was a friend. She'd been there since 2:30.
No. 6 was sworn to call his wife the minute he had the machine in hand.
6:10 a.m.: The store manager confirmed they had at least nine units. My sense of relief was mirrored in the faces of Nos. 1-9. Yes! Now all we had to do was wait out the clock. People behind us reassured themselves by talking about rainchecks.
6:15 a.m.: We ignored a swarm of latecomers who walked past us and parked themselves at the front doors. Looking like the bodiless head from the Emerald City in Oz, the manager poked his head out the door and declared the line was obviously "over there." Their bid for anarchy thwarted, they went to the back of the line.
6:30 a.m.: The manager dropped the bomb: nine units. Only the first nine of us were allowed inside to wait at the deli. We had snacks. We were getting the last Wiis in the county. We had a party. I phoned my wife to tell her I'd made it.
7:30 a.m.: People streamed into and out of the electronics department as they learned there were no Wiis for latecomers.
8 a.m.: Finally. Forming a virtual conga line to the register, we waved No. 1 to the front. His 14-year-old smile stretched from ear to ear as he shelled out twenty after twenty.
I knew the slim shape of that particular package outlined against a plastic bag painfully well. I'd seen it several days before in many plastic bags that had streamed by me. I was No. 43 in a line where there were 41 machines.
We waved as the crazy kids at the front of the line left. Our party was breaking up.
Recalling all the angry Wii-less faces I'd seen that morning, I agreed to walk No. 5 out. No. 6 yelled excitedly into his phone, "Honey? I got it!"
Smiling, Phil handed me my Wii.
It had become a quest. I was a gamer and I knew all about questing. I walked out into the bright sunlight with Lisa, formerly known as No. 5.