Of Time and TRU
I was in Toys R Us the other day making my usual counterclockwise pass around X Island. Three quarters of the way around, in the Power Rangers section, I came upon a sight I hope common to all of us, a parent rifling through the pegs for their young child, who was standing by anxiously. I notice it’s progressed to the point in TRU where most action figure pegs aren’t even close to within a small child’s reach. I think that’s extremely telling with respect to the mass-market action figure industry, but it’s a story for another column.
This column is about the kid and his mom in the Power Ranger section. The little boy’s exuberance made me want to see a) what he was after (sadly, the thought crossed my mind it might be something I wanted too) and b) how the search would turn out. I occupied myself at the Johnny Lightning panel as the mom continued to go through the pegs.
Things were not going well. “Oh,” the kid moaned. “We’re never going to find it.”
“You never know,” the mom reassured. “Let’s just keep looking.”
The little boy took his despair to the end cap and I decided to move on. It didn’t look like the kid was going to go away happy and the last thing I wanted was to watch his disappointment. More on that later.
I made the final turn and headed for the home stretch of Ninja Turtles and Star Wars when, from back ‘round the bend I heard, “Oh my God! It’s a miracle!”
It was the little boy’s voice. Suddenly, I found the Hot Wheels very interesting and turned back.
I caught the mom’s eye as I made for the die cast. I was afraid she’d wonder why a thirty-year-old jackass was milling around her and her son for the second time in the last minute. Instead, she smiled. And I smiled. A shared moment between adults.
All because of a child’s excitement over a toy.
The toy in question that day was the Orangehead Troobian; the newest villain in the Power Rangers S.P.D. line. I can vouch for it’s scarcity; the only ones I’ve seen are the one the kid walked away with and my own. So, not only was the little boy reveling in the type of glee rarely experienced outside of childhood, he was triumphing over the dreaded one-villain-per-case pack out ratios that plague us all. Truly, it was a victory all the way around.
The kid’s mother still had one pleasant trick up her sleeve. As she handed the Orangehead over to her son, she said, “That’s just like the regular Krybot, but with a different head thing, right?”
Yes, kid’s mother, it IS just like the regular Krybot, but with a different head thing! Thank you for caring enough to pay attention to what your son enjoys. I see precious little of that in the toy aisles.
So, the kid left with his Troobian, the mom left with a happy (and appreciative kid) and I left with a reminder of the symbiotic relationship we as collectors have with children just like this little boy when it comes to mass-market action figures.
Remember folks, if it can’t make little kids think divine intervention is the only way they got it, chances are it won’t be on the pegs for long.
Ask He-Man…if you can still find him.
My encounter with the happy kid and his Orangehead Troobian reminded me of a few other things. First, I naturally thought of when I was in his position, when it was me anxiously awaiting the results of my parent’s peg search. Someday I’ll tell you an awesome story about my father and the search for some Super Powers villains, but today you get another tale, also about Super Powers, that always makes me chuckle.
It’s the flipside of the Troobian kid story, it’s about how children can be very manipulative, starring me.
Same Toys R Us, about twenty years earlier. No X Island then, those were the days of Aisle 7C. Those were the days when the walls of stuff between the front door and the action figures weren’t aisles; they were racing lanes.
My mother was in the store that night for, I believe, formula for my newborn baby sister. I was there for Super Powers. As luck would have it there were two figures I needed/wanted that night, Firestorm and Mantis. Unfortunately, my mother was sticking to her mandate for the evening and there would be no figures for me. We were there for formula.
Hadn’t she told me that before we left the house?
We got on line. My mother laden with a case of tin cans, me laden with the sorrow only those with treasure just beyond their grasp can know. In the next line over, there’s a baby, a bit older than my sister, crying her blessed eyes out. I looked up and found my mother looking doe-eyed and pucker-lipped at the upset infant. “So sad…” she said, and gave the crying baby a sympathetic inclination of her head.
I seized the opportunity with, in retrospect, scary precision. I looked from the crying baby to my mother, made sure I had her eye, looked to the floor tiles with a sigh and SAID...
“Now you know how I feel.”
I went home with Mantis.
Yes sir, kids can be manipulative. But, like my buddy and his Troobian, the pure joy a toy (and the participation of a parent), can bring is nigh unparalleled in kiddom.
Think A Christmas Story, not Jingle All the Way.
My TRU Power Ranger experience reminded me of one other thing, this one not so pleasant. Like a lot of people, my childhood wasn’t all Mantis figures and mother manipulation. There were some not so great times too, and for that reason I often have trouble seeing little kids happy.
The perfect, unspoiled innocent glee when a child gets anything from a new toy to a hug won’t always be there. Someday, when the child is older, mean people will do bad things to him or her. Maybe it’ll be a crippling injury, or a terrible marriage, or the untimely death of a relative. Maybe the child will grow up to be nothing, to be the victim of a savage crime, or maybe the child will himself be a criminal. Who knows? These are the things I sometimes think about when I see a small child happy. I try not to, but I do. I want to surround the kid with some kind of force field than will preserve that unfiltered happiness forever.
Of course, I can’t do that. I can only imagine how Sue Storm feels.
And maybe it’s best I can’t. Because, if not for life’s treacherous valleys, and even it’s flat planes, we wouldn’t value the wonderful peaks nearly as much. I’ll never know how the Troobian kid in Toys R Us turns out, but I do know, in the few moments I crossed his path, he had one of those perfect toy moments where the world breaks just right.
I bet he’ll remember that perfect toy moment for the rest of his life.
Because I used to be him. And I’ve never forgotten mine.
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