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The Observer

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In case you wondered what it took to get one of the hot new Wii Nintendo video game players, The Observer can provide some insight.

Nintendo stages release of such things craftily, to induce mass hysteria. Evidence, the $249 machine was selling for upwards of $500 on eBay as the days marched toward Christmas.

One last limited batch of the Wii players was released to stores for sale on Sunday, Dec. 17. The items were duly noted in circulars. A door-buster special.

But you had to get up early for this special.

Precisely 4 a.m. in the case of The Observer and mate, who decided that our 21-year-old baby needed one last “Santa” Christmas, with surprise gifts arrayed on the chair by the tree. Did he want a Wii? Who knew? But we’d made a habit of getting our hands on the hottest game player of previous Christmases, so why not one more to complete the playroom set?

We not only got up early Sunday. We cased the two game stores, Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy and Toys R Us along McCain Boulevard in North Little Rock on Saturday to gather intelligence on how many games they expected to put on sale, what their opening hours were, what was the expected demand. Clerks were generally tight-lipped.

We finally decided to put all our eggs in Best Buy’s basket, on account of its size and early opening hour. Our 4:30 a.m. arrival put us No. 21 in an orderly line that had begun forming at 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Across the way, we noticed a much smaller queue at Toys R Us, which the Best Buy shoppers (and our Internet research) indicated would have a smaller allotment than the average Best Buy. One of us stayed at Best Buy, another joined the line at the toy store at No. 6, where we chatted with Cabot moms who said they were nervous about venturing into the urban area in darkness, but anything for the kids.

At 6:30 a.m., a Best Buy employee notified those in line, now 50 or more, that there would be only 19 Wiis for sale and that tickets to claim them would be passed out about 7 a.m. So close, yet so far for our Best Buy placeholder.

Toys R Us was maddening. Stockers came and went, but refused to reveal anything about Wii supplies. Finally, about 20 minutes before opening, an employee walked out with a stack of claims and handed them out one by one to a clamoring line that had grown to 40 or more. At 17, all were gone. But the Observer, at No. 6, had his prize and, not many minutes later, the hot toy of the season. Did it have the new and improved strap to prevent the thing from flying into TVs and through windows during over-excited play? We’ll let Junior figure that out. If he even wants it.

Seen painted in white on a rear windshield where one usually reads “Just Married”:

“No regrets”

A guy was driving. Maybe he was jilted. But it looks like he’s over it.

A Little Rock resident temporarily without a car needed to go to the downtown post office and decided to call a cab. Knowing the cab company would want a street address, he looked in the telephone book. There was no telephone number or address for any Little Rock post office. In the business listings of the telephone directory, U.S. Pizza Co. gives phone numbers and addresses for a number of its outlets. Just below that is a listing for “U.S. Postal Service 374-2925.” Callers to this number are told that it has been disconnected. The U.S. government section of the phone book has no local listings for post offices either, only 800 numbers with recorded information on zip codes and rates. Nor does telephone Information have any listings for local post offices, or a local postmaster. Always contemptuous of its customers, the postal service now seems to be hiding from them. It’s enough to make a taxpayer “go postal.” (The man who wanted to go to the downtown post office eventually got there, no thanks to the postal service. A cab driver knew the location of the building even without a street address.)

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