Journey to The Last Jedi: A third midnight Toys R Us run

Car crashes, ill health, fast food, lunatic Trump supporters, toys, grown men agreeing to trade toys, needless purchases, and the biggest multimedia franchise of all time.

These are the things that make going to the midnight opening of Toys R Us for the release of the new Star Wars toys worth it.

For the third straight year I have bowed to the marketing machine for the latest Star Wars movie. To celebrate this December’s release of The Last Jedi, I spent a Thursday night waiting in line to be among the first to get their hands on the new toys and merchandise.

Of course I was the first.

Force Friday II (since last year was just “Rogue Friday”) was an unabashed success, but it almost didn’t happen for this young writer.

The last two years had stories of intrigue and excitement building up to the trip to the store. In 2015 we had my lifelong pursuit of the Millennium Falcon. In 2016 we had the humor of going back again, and the challenge of half the crew dropping out last moment. This year was a whole different animal.

At the end of July, I caught the cold to end all colds. That turned into bronchitis and some of the craziest health issues I’ve ever had, culminating in finding out I have Lyme disease. It was a stressful few weeks with a lot of medication and a whole lot of feeling out of the loop. So much so that I forgot about Force Friday, since who gives a shit when you’re taking antibiotics that make you do nothing but poop your brains out? Not to mention I had some tests done a couple days before and was stressfully awaiting the results to see if I was on the mend or if I was wasting away.

Chewbacca chilling with a Porg. These little critters are a marketing juggernaut.

But I was sucked back to reality that Thursday morning when my brother texted me and asked if I was going to Force Friday. I was confused and embarrassed. How did I not know this was happening? How could I let health come before the opportunity to complete a trilogy of blog posts on the absurdity of this shit? But now as a grown man with a girlfriend and my own place, how could I lower myself to doing this? With other things going on, I debated if it was wise to go.

Then by the middle of the day I decided fuck it, I had to go. Two reasons told me that I had to do this, health be damned. First, the odds of seeing some hilarious shit to write about made me think it would be a productive use of time. Second, the chance to be the first in line to grab the first figure of Luke Skywalker as a Jedi Master, while unbelievably nerdy, was just too good to pass up.

Since it was so short notice, I could only enlist my boy Travis for this adventure. He was with us in 2015, and was on his way to join us last year until a deer decided to ruin his evening. But on this night it was meant to be.

I got home from work and began my preparations when I received a call from my doctor. I immediately assumed the worst since I wasn’t sure why the doctor would call outside of normal business hours, but it turns out she just wanted to let me know I was indeed on the mend. To me, what she was essentially saying was, “Your purpose is to go to Toys R Us and blog about it.”

Doctor’s orders.

Travis and I arrived at Toys R Us around 8:20. The goal was to be the first in line, and things were looking positive. We walked into the store to scout out the Star Wars section. They had emptied off some of the shelves to make way for the new merch. We killed some time, then went and chilled in his car as we saw some other people show up and putz around the parking lot, not ready to line up.

As soon as some store workers brought out the queues, I jumped out of the car and we got in line. Behind us was a young man named Devin, who we had spoken to a little in 2015, and behind him was a middle-aged gentleman who was pretty cool and made for some good, nerdy Star Wars conversation.

Unfortunately no Benicio Del Toro merchandise is on sale yet. Fortunately, he is dressed in his regular clothes, making his future Star Wars toy evergreen and compatible with all other franchises.

Then a Jeep pulls up and out comes Sean, the police officer from last year’s Rogue Friday who was adamant that Black Lives Matter is a conspiracy funded by rich white people, and who bonded with the lunatic Ralph who wanted to trade figures. Then it happened.

A huge pickup truck pulls in. I had a feeling who this was the second I saw the truck. Out comes a guy who looked a little familiar, but I wasn’t quite sure if it was Ralph. Then I got my answer.

“Wooo! Star Wars! You guys six inchers, or are you three and three-quarter inchers?”

With that incredibly phallic sounding question about which Star Wars toys we were here for, I knew this was the very same guy who last year yelled to a fat man, “Hey big guy, you here for the six inch?!”

Ralph had returned.

Last year, it was clear Ralph was a crazy asshole, but this year he didn’t hold back at all.

“Thank God for Trump or we’d all be in deep shit,” Ralph threw out there. A troubling statement on its own considering things that seemingly say we’re in some deep shit – like the rise of white nationalism or the threat of nuclear war – but even more troubling when you consider we were gathered to celebrate Star Wars.

Not to politicize the Holy Trilogy, but the original Star Wars movies are the tales of an inclusive, diverse group of people (women, non-whites, aliens, etc.) taking on the hyper-nationalistic, white male-led, slavery-supporting, fearmongering, militaristic Empire which demands total loyalty and unyielding support. Just odd to me.

I wish they sold this poster

In a courteous turn of events, Ralph remembered Sean from the year before and asked how Sean’s kid was. I was impressed he was that kind enough to remember that after a few hours of waiting in line for Star Wars toys a year ago. I was sad, though, to find out through context clues that this meant they never met up and traded toys like they had agreed to.

Then I nearly shit myself when Ralph said, “I just had my first like two or three months ago. Now I’m here pissing my money away on Star Wars shit.”

If you can’t remember how many months ago your kid was born, at least remember you’re not responsible with your dough!

Unfortunately for Ralph, his car insurance was about to go up too.

He kept doing his Ralph thing, saying weird shit, detailing his man cave again. He told the group gathered around him that his wife is supportive of his Star Wars collecting and his enormous displays. She told him, “Ralph, set them up, that’s your shit,” and now he has a half Sopranos and half Star Wars man cave. He would have a Sopranos-themed man cave in 2017.

He was even working trades again, befriending Devin and telling him, “Devin, you got yourself a homeboy now.”

But Ralph may have lost a homeboy just as soon as he gained one. Driving his truck this evening was his friend Willy, who was very upset he couldn’t be home playing FIFA last year. Willy drove down the road to Taco Bell and then pulled right up to the line and hooked Ralph up with a quesadilla. Then he fucked up.

It was 11:47. There was a nice, newer Ford Mustang parked in the last spot in a row. Between the curb and the Mustang was one of those painted off areas that’s not a parking spot, and not quite big enough for a car. Willy pulls the truck up near there and starts backing up. I watched with Travis and the nice older gentleman who shared some cool Star Wars Celebration stories with us. We were stunned, thinking that despite there being about a million open spots, Willy would try backing into that little area that wasn’t even a spot. But then he started to straighten out and pull away and we breathed a sigh of relief.

THE PORG!

During all of this Ralph was ranting and raving, not paying attention.

Willy went back for more, and then backed right into the Mustang. It took a moment for Ralph to realize what happened, but when he did he was pissed. As the owner of the Mustang and Ralph walked over to Willy, Ralph let him have it.

“This is on my fucking insurance, Willy! You could have parked in any spot but you try to back into that?”

Willy gave the only rational response, “You fucking dragged me out to this! I didn’t even want to come.”

When a friend gets in an accident doing stupid shit in your car, it is only right for them to blame you for their own poor judgement.

Then they did what only true adults can do: agree to have the insurance companies handle it and call the police after they got their Star Wars shit. Back to the line they went, priorities well established.

Finally we were let into the store. I was disappointed there was nobody in the Geoffrey the Giraffe costume dancing and waving this year. He really sets the tone for the evening but we were going to have to rock it without him. And the free stuff they gave out this year was lame as fuck. Lame poster, lame t-shirt. If you didn’t come to spend money, GTFO.

I was the first one in the store. As I trucked to the back, I noticed a couple people trying to angle to get ahead of me. No chance. I hit the Star Wars display and grabbed Luke Skywalker and Rey without even blinking. Then that fucking asshole Ralph was right over my shoulder, reaching directly in my line of sight and yelling to Willy to come help him carry stuff. I also grabbed new protagonist Rose and then Chewbacca with one of those new little Porg creatures. A solid haul.

Bizarrely, there were no exclusives at Toys R Us that evening so I couldn’t go all in and buy stuff to sell on eBay like last year. So it goes.

We were out of there in 10 minutes, and as we drove off we could see Ralph, Willy and the driver of the Mustang resolving their conflict in the parking lot. The night just sort of ended. Which made me wonder if – after three years now of spending a Saturday night surrounded by insane people and getting excited to buy shit I don’t need – this was even worth it.

It totally was.

The new members of the family

Always have to laugh at the nerdy bragging rights of being first in line to grab the new toys. And for The Force Awakens and Rogue One we were first in line for the movie, so we continue our run of nerdy dominance. It’s always funny to go to these things and mingle with the people in line. And when you get to see chaos like morons backing into parked cars that have been in the same spot for several hours in plain view, it adds to the magic and the majesty.

Can’t wait to do it again for the Han Solo movie next year.

And let’s just hope The Last Jedi doesn’t suck, otherwise I’ll really feel like an asshole for doing this.

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