The Thrill of the Hunt by Sharon O’Donnell

Ever since my youngest son, Jason, found out the truth about Santa Clause when he was 8 or 9 (he’s now 13), Christmas morning has lost some of its magic, and I do miss that. However, it’s also become a lot easier for me — as the appointed shopper of our family — to buy gifts without having to worry about revealing Santa’s true identity. When we are out somewhere, and Jason sees something he’d like for Christmas, and it’s on sale — hey, no problem, I can just buy it there in front of him and save it for Christmas.

No Christmas has this been more evident than this year. On Black Friday, I was blessed to have the rare opportunity to go shopping with all 3 of my sons at the same time. We spent most of our time in Dick’s Sporting Goods (two different locations, no less), instead of at the mall, but they were all able to pick out things I knew they’d like. Jason had waited until just a week or so ago to decide that he wanted a Play Station 4 for Christmas; the pre-order date for this item had already passed, and people all around the nation were standing in long lines to get the few Play Station 4s that the company seems to be rationing to retailers. I knew — and he knew too — that the chances of our finding one in time for the holidays was not good. On Thanksgiving night, I ventured out to Toys R Us to see if they had any PS4s. I didn’t want to do any ‘heavy’ shopping on Thanksgiving but would rather relax; but, I decided that perhaps Toys R Us might have some of the game systems because the store was still known as primarily a toy place, not an electronics/game place frequented by teens. Alas, my theory didn’t pay off that night. They had none in stock, but an employee told me that they would have some on Saturday morning when the store opened at 7 a.m. I told Jason this, and he wanted to get up and go with me that day — probably to make sure I got the right thing because game systems are definitely not my strong point. I told him that some people might get there hours before the store opened, but we were just going to go a half hour before the store opened and see what we could get. I was determined I would not get sleep out in a line or even get up at 0-dark hundred to go wait in line for hours. But 30 minutes I could handle.

So off we went on Saturday morning. A mother-son experience. When we arrived at Toys R Us, there was only about 10 people in line, but of course, we didn’t know how many Play Stations they would have in stock. Several people arrived after us also. We waited in line for about 20 minutes in the cold when a store employee came out and announced that tickets for the XBox One had been given out already and that they only had eight in stock. Thus, some disgruntled, sleep-deprived people left. “But what about Play Station 4s?” I asked the employee. He informed me that they didn’t have any of those that day, although they’d had two on Friday. I explained to him that an employee had told me they’d have units in that morning; he apologized and said that there were so many employees during the holidays that it was difficult to relay correct, updated info to them. Whatever. It was annoying that we’d given up our sleep for nothing.

Jason and I went back to the car and drove to Wal-Mart since it was early, and I thought perhaps we might strike it lucky. But they had no Play Station 4s and didn’t know when or if they’d get any more in stock. We decided to drive to Target, although we knew it’d probably be in vain. If they didn’t have it, then we’d give up for the morning and just go eat breakfast. On the way to Target, I told Jason to call another Toys R Us in Durham, a nearby city about 30 minutes away. He looked up the number on my Iphone, dialed the number, and then handed me the phone. When an employee answered, I asked, “Could you tell me if you expect to get any more Play Station 4s in?”

She replied, “We have some right now.”

“You have some NOW?” I asked in disbelief. Jason looked over at me quickly, a smile appearing on his face. They did indeed have ‘some’ in stock, but store rules prevented them from saying how many. We were off to Durham in hopes that we’d get there in time. I have to admit it was rather exciting. I cautioned Jason that by the time we got there, they might not have any, but we’d give it our best shot. Oddly, it was sort of a bonding time for us as we set off in our pursuit.

When we arrived, the store looked almost deserted on the outside. It is a stand-alone store that used to be near an old mall that is no longer there, so there is not as much visibility or traffic for the store. We ran into the store, and right at the front was an employee at the service desk. “I called about a PS4 a little earlier,” I told her.

She smiled and said, “I’ll go in the back to get one for you. Meet me over in electronics.” Jason and I exchanged glances; this seemed too easy.

“Thank you so much,” I gushed.

“Can you believe this?” Jason asked me, as we walked to the electronics section. We went to the check-out counter to wait for the employee to bring the PS4 out, and there in front of us was a man we met in line at the other Toys R Us in our town buying an XBox One. He turned around and said, “Hey guys!” Yes, shoppers uniting in the trenches.

As we were buying the PS4, another mom and her son came in and asked it there were any PS4s. The employee from the service desk went back to get one for her, and as she gave it to the woman, she said, “This is the last one. We only had two.” Jason and I were both immensely glad that the woman was able to get one because we would have felt terrible if we had gotten the last one just as she came in the store. Jason and the woman’s son struck up a conversation as the purchases were made, and I was extremely glad no one else came in looking for a PS4 while we were there.

I recall when my oldest son, now 22, was 2 years old and my husband drove all over the city trying to find a Mickey Mouse rocking chair for our son who was a huge Mickey fan. He and I still talk about that. Last Saturday morning is one that I’m sure Jason will remember — maybe even years from now as he goes from store to store playing Santa and looking for hard-to-find items for his own children — unless Grandma finds them first.