|Welcome to Mecca
the Santa center, KayBee Toys is not at the center of Woodland Mall - it's
tucked off the Sears wing - but it might as well be. As I stand at
its gaping mouth, preparing to be swallowed whole, I am in awe of the skyscraping
mountains of Mattel marvels before me. The North Pole itself must
not harbor this many toys. This is the apex of America, the cusp
of Christmas. This is where children's dreams and parents' nightmares
will become reality this holiday season. This is where Venom's Water
Vipers and Magic Stroller Baby can dwell together in harmony as sweet as
the ever-ringing cash register.
My goodness, there are a
lot of toys in here. They have managed to pile everything imaginable
into this sanctuary of self-indulgence, from Barbie to Batman, Cabbage
Patch to Captain America, with parcels stacked to the heavens. A
Mars Attacks Martian Flying Saucer's exposed button beckons to "Try Me."
I am no elf, but I cannot reach it; it is stocked far above World Wrestling
Federation Powerhouse 7-piece set and DragonFlyz Riptor dragon launcher,
as well as the Flash Gordon Rebel Air Bike.
In the history of human ingenuity,
there is Edison and the light bulb, the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk,
and then, in the next aisle, right next to Pretty Pretty Princess, is Baby
Did It, which when fed, well, does it, and promises "no diaper mess."
Thanks, but I'd rather take my chances with Mantis Alien "with bone crushing
Then there is The Line, whose
length requires titular capitalization. The front of The Line, of
course, culminates at the cash register, where frenzied workers pound at
cash registers and bark into phones. From there The Line forms a
"J" (as in "Jasmine," the Aladdin character available here in about a hundred
different capacities), stretching past Magic Flower Maker, Monster Mash,
and Zog Logs before continuing all the way past the Pocohantas electronic
board game and Hunchback of Notre Dame electronic board game, down to the
Fisher Price wall which serves as the back of the store, housing everything
from Pop-Up-Puppy to Wobbly Fun Ball, before wrapping around to the Sesame
By a store worker's estimation
The Line is a 30 minute wait. Rumor swirls that the line at Toys
'R Us was an hour, and that was seven thirty this morning. While
you wait here, meanwhile, you can glance at The Lost World Extra Large
3-D Game Board, whose cardboard questions, "Will You Survive?" Most
of the patient parents, bearing boxes of Barbies and barbaric boa constrictors,
Mail at the Mall
emerge from the mecca of merchandise again, finding the rest of the packed
mall spacious by comparison. (Try to find a place to sit and write,
however, and you are quickly doomed.) I make my way back toward the
unmistakable Santa centerpiece (speaking of Mecca) and stumble upon a couple
of small tables surrounding what looks like a red and green pot-bellied
stove. One of Santa's helpers stands sentry beside it, receiving
pieces of paper from children at the tables and feeding it to the stove,
which responds with a whirring sound. A sign calls this the North
Polestal Station, and the giant mailbox and its whirring are supposedly
sending heartfelt written requests north.
I am old enough (I just don't
show it) to know those notes aren't actually going to 90 degrees latitude,
so I motion to the attendant and inquire about their destination.
"Santa answers them," she assures me, and shows me the place on the letter
where children are to write their addresses. And somebody responds?
"We have an individual who does that," the helper reveals, out of earshot
of the scribbling little kids. The station is not a hundred feet
from Santa supposedly himself, camped out in front of that camera.
But this is a communications age. Be surprised they're not weaning
the kids on e-mail.