"See? You thought I was the only crazy one." A young man was saying this to his girlfriend or wife as, dumbstruck, she surveyed the long line that stretched from the front door of the Toys "R" Us at Metrocenter, around the corner and down the south side of the building, at a few minutes before midnight on a Sunday. No, he most certainly was not the only crazy one, though that thought didn't look like it was any comfort to her.
Hundreds of dweeby white guys had turned out on the cool, moonlit evening of May 2 for the unveiling of the new Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace toys, in anticipation of the May 19 release of George Lucas' film. Joining us--er, I mean joining them--was a healthy smattering of dweebs of other races, ethnicities and genders.
I fell into conversation with four nice, funny guys standing behind me in line: Scott, Matt, Stephen and Dan. They were all in their late teens or early 20s, too young to recall the opening of the first Star Wars; the sequels were among the earliest films they remembered. One of them, Dan, I think, worked stock at this very Toys "R" Us. "I've seen the line," he admitted blandly. "The figures are nice." Guess so.
Just about that time, the doors were opened and the faithful began to crowd joyously into the store. For a scary moment, I thought there might be some sort of Who-concert incident. But once we got inside, it became clear why people like Bill Gates (and George Lucas) end up ruling the world: Nerds are civilized. As they scrambled wildly for their plastic bounty, the shoppers unfailingly said "excuse me" to each other, and they thanked the unaccountably cheerful Toys "R" Us staffers for their price checks. There were no fights or injuries that I saw.
The most sought-after items were the basic action figures--and of those, the most prized were the major characters. Stephen or Scott or Matt or Dan selected a young Obi-wan, "because it's Ewan MacGregor, and he's the best Scottish actor in the world." The most restrained of the four, Scott or Stephen or Matt or Dan, bought a puzzle for 99 cents. Matt or Scott or Stephen or Dan was looking for a "Darth Maul"; at first he couldn't find one, but then he strode up in triumph: "A lady had an extra one, and she gave it to me." High-fives all around.
My own bill: $26.71.
--M. V. Moorhead