I was rubbing the sleep from my eyes after waking up way too early for a Sunday morning when I got a call from my 13-year-old sister, Paige (pictured to the right). "How's it going?" I asked. "Not good," she said.
Paige wasn't that excited about the Wii when it first came out, but sometime in mid-December the hype (and the promise of a new Wario Ware game) hit her like a ton of bricks. Since then, she's been clamoring for the hard-to-find system in a big way, constantly working the phones to nearby Rockville, Md., retailers and scanning sites like iTrackr in the hopes of catching a shipment. After a few weeks of fruitless hunting, Paige was begging me to ask my "Nintendo girlfriend" (a.k.a. my PR contact) to send her a system. When I told her it doesn't quite work that way, she told me to use my "sexy looks" to sway her. Apparently the search for a Wii had made her delusional.
I knew I probably shouldn't be encouraging my sister's compulsion, but when I saw all the chatter on Joystiq about retailers holding Wii systems for sale, I had to tell her. After poring over the available data Saturday night, we developed a plan to wake up early and stake out the most likely candidates before they opened on Sunday morning. Paige and my mom would hit the Rockville stores, I would try the retailers in my local Laurel, about an hour away (yes, I got recruited into camping for my sister. Yes, I am a sucker.)
I was just waking up and gearing up for my system search when I got a my first call of the day from Paige at 8:45 a.m. (like I said, way too early for a Sunday) . I could tell from her rough-as-gravel voice that things were not going as planned. Apparently, she had overslept her fatherly wake-up call at 6 a.m. and hadn't gotten out of the house until 8. I had told her the night before that this should be plenty early enough to get a place in line for a 10 a.m. store opening. I was wrong. By the time they hit Circuit City at 8:15 a.m., there were already 20 customers lined up for the 16 Wiis indicated by a sign on the front door. What's worse, a surly line-goer told them the nearby Best Buy had over 50 people in line for only 20 systems.
Figuring the short Circuit City line held better odds than the reportedly overflowing Best Buy line, they stuck around until 8:30 a.m. when an employee gave out exactly 16 Wii vouchers, just enough to leave my mom and sister out in the cold. Desperate, the pair decided to swing by Toys 'R' Us (which was closed, with no signs of life or Wiis) and a nearby Gamestop (where the lights and a neon "Open" sign were on, but no employees responded to my sister's pounding on the door). This was the story my sister was recounting as they rolled towards the fifth and final store on their list, another Gamestop. As the minivan approached the parking lot, Paige cut her story short in mid-sentence. "Oh crap, there's a line," she said, "and there's a sign on the door, and the first word on it is 'Wii.' I'll call you back."
Fifteen minutes later, I was pleased to hear from Paige that the store had 17 systems, and that she had signed an unofficial sign-in sheet for the eighth one (the list was maintained by the two people in the front of the line, who had reportedly been sitting there in lounge chairs since 7 a.m.). While I was happy that it seemed my sister was finally going to get the system she desired, I was even happier that I didn't have to go out in the cold and search myself (hooray for procrastination!).
Over the next two hours, my mom and sister waited in the 30 degree weather with a lively cast of characters including: Tim, a kindly 40-something man who was buying a system for his wife (and shared his blanket with my sister); Joey, a "hot" eighth grader who was there with his mom; and Michael, a "creepy" older guy who said he "owned every tech gadget known to man ... except a Wii." Alternating trips to a nearby Borders and hot chocolate from a nearby Starbucks kept the cold wait from being too unbearable, my sister said later.
At 10:45 the store manager arrived to a chorus of cheers and applause from the 30 or so people in line. The cheers faded quickly, though, when he told the crowd he couldn't open until his partner got there. By the time the second employee arrived at 11:02, the line had ballooned to 45 people, some of whom tried to disregard the now-full list and cut to the front of the line. As my sister put it "we weren't having any of that" -- angry cries of "we have a list, we have a list" forced them to try their luck at the back of the line. One desperate late-comer even offered $100 for a spot in the line. My sister's response was representative of the entire line: "No way lady, I've been standing out here for two hours. You have no idea how cold my toes are."
At 11:15 Paige's long morning was over and she was heading home with a Wii, an extra remote and nunchuck, and a copy of Wario Ware. After an afternoon full of Mii making, TV web browsing, and some Wario Ware ("It's so hard!") she said the wait was definitely worth it. When will the Wii supplies catch up with the demand? When will the madness end?
My sister's quest for a Wii
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