Since the weather has been alternating between pleasant and apocalyptic lately, I decided to lean in to cheerful existential dread and visit my local Toys R Us exactly six days before it closed forever.
I have never willingly entered a Toys R Us.
Even as a toys-obsessed child, I hated Toys R Us. My parents used to drag me to Toys R Us to buy holiday presents in the barbarian days before online shopping and every year I cried the entire time. I was the kind of child who loathed the sounds of other children, and thanks to having a nurse for a mom and a cop for a dad, I was equally fearful of germs and pedophiles, and all too aware that Toys R Us was a magnet for both.
And now it’s bankrupt.
I entered the Toys R Us with no sense of sadness or nostalgia. I feel terrible for the retail employees who are out of a job and are still working hard even as the clock ticks down. The CEOs and their cronies will fail upwards into other mediocre vanity positions that leave ample time for scouting vacation properties and playing golf. Their portfolios won’t miss a beat. They might go on TV once in a while and rail against those darn millennials and their online shopping creating a terrible world where no one will be able to shop at the local windowless hell void filled with screaming children and communicable bacteria.
I love online shopping.
But I wasn’t at the Toys R Us just for the sake of symbolism. I was on a mission.
My best friend Stella’s birthday is coming up. She loves Funko Pops and I usually give her one for either her birthday or Christmas. Funko recently came out with a line of Fraggle Rock characters. Stella and I loved Fraggle Rock back in the day. She immediately said, “Do they have Sprocket? I only want Sprocket. He’s my favorite.”
Sprocket was the adorable sheepdog who was constantly attempting to alert his human to the existence of the Fraggles, but eventually befriended them and even got to visit Fraggle Rock a couple of times.
There are six Fraggle Rock Funkos, but only Sprocket was made a Toys R Us exclusive, and I have no idea why (would Jim Henson, bless his beautiful soul, have allowed that? Never). The others are everywhere, but not Sprocket.
I tried to buy him from the Toys R Us website, but nothing can be purchased from the Toys R Us website while the end is nigh. Even their virtual real estate is shutting the doors.
So I went out into the snow-threatening sunshine and ignored the actual looming dark clouds over the Toys R Us. For friendship, and Fraggle Rock.
I instinctively braced myself for the chaos and whizzing carts and simultaneous toddler and parent meltdowns of my youth, but the store was quiet. A song from Mary Poppins played over the loudspeaker. You know, the one that the crazy uncle sings when he’s floating in midair and can’t stop laughing?
Most of the shelves were cleared and marked with caution tape, like the store was a crime scene or under quarantine. Everything had a giant sale tag, even the fixtures.
The few shoppers all had young kids with them. One mom was explaining to a little girl, “The store is going out of business, so everything is on sale.”
If I’d brought a kid, I would’ve added something like “Because capitalism is the real monster under all of our beds,” and that’s when I realized I was the only adult without a child in the store—just the kind of person that my dad warned me about.
So I took only a second to ponder what a deal I could get on a brand new Ferrari (I could drive it right out of the store!) and headed right for the big Funko display.
I actually clapped my hands like I was psyching up for a wrestling match and said to myself, out loud, “Okay, you can do this. You just have to find Sprocket. Find Sprocket!”
Now I was the kind of person that both my parents warned me about.
I turned over the entire display like it was hiding the Staff of Ra, but there were no Sprockets to be found, or any of the other Fraggles.
Maybe Stella would rather have Robert Trujillo from Metallica? He’s been their bassist since 2003!
90% of the remaining Funko inventory was Lucky, the one-horned goat from Despicable Me 3, which I didn’t see, yet somehow made over a billion dollars.
I guess Lucky didn’t catch on as much as the marketing team predicted, and now he and all his brothers are trapped in the last Toys R Us, with Robert Trujillo and five Elenas of Avalor, as the lights flicker off for the last time.
If anyone wants to hear my pitch for Toy Story 4, I’ve got it.
I was pondering what to do when I spotted this abandoned single shoe under an empty Star Wars showcase.
And that reminded me of the rainy grey day that my friend Maggie was driving me to one of our grad school evening classes, and I saw a child’s shoe in a storm drain, and I said, “It always makes me really sad to see a lost shoe all alone like that,” and without missing a beat, Maggie said, “That’s because you’re Jewish.”
Anyway, just like every other time I’d ever gone to a Toys R Us, they didn’t have the one thing I really wanted.
Mary Poppins was singing Jolly Holiday with the dancing penguins. It was time to go.
I left after a quick backtrack to admire this practical vehicle that I think would really reflect my lifestyle and aspirations, and a dash to the Teletubbies shelf, where I could not resist squeezing all their tummies and making as many laugh in creepy unison as possible.
And then I went home and washed my hands.