I’ll never forget the day I met ol’ chipped tooth. It was 9:45 on a sweltering August morning. My 3 year old had brought me to this lowly place in life, standing outside of a toy store, waiting for the doors to open. There were 5 of us there, standing in complete silence. Contrary to the a**hole I play on television, I’m kind of a friendly go-getter when it comes to my public. Years of student council campaigns, and successful years crushing it as a sales manager for a major publishing company, have left me unable to stand in silence with strangers for more than two minutes.
Maybe it’s sheer boredom, or an innate need to control most social situations, but I found myself there on the unshaded pavement outside my local Toys R Us, feeling rather friendly that scorching day. Valor and I steeled ourselves for the newfound adventure of Shopkins hunting whilst I surveyed my peers: three grown-assed men, waiting on toys. The tallest was the alpha dog, chipped tooth and wearing a Dodge Challenger Jacket, he was pure white trash, complete with a genuine dirtbag mustache (ratty and blonde.)
He barked orders at his two lackeys, a slight man with the will to live removed from his eyes, and another toadie, an older dude with capped teeth so large and glorious, one could easily project a movie on them. I decided that silence was not golden, but a minor irritation. So, from my gilded tower of superiority, I decided to engage the 3 amigos, ever the charitable beauty, these men would find my kindness disarming and irresistible.
“Sheesh, it’s boiling out here. I can’t believe I’m here outside of a Toy Store in AUGUST! Good morning, what are y’all here for today?”
I waited for my charm and classical good looks to do their magic, but much to my chagrin, the 3 stooges remained unmoved. Slight guy, who at the mere sound of a female voice, showed his true form as a nebbish, looked at the pavement and refused to respond. Old man, clearly still breaking in his new chompers, nervously licked his lips and teeth all while avoiding eye-contact. After some unintelligible groans from the perma-virgins, I realized that I’d finally hit a new low in my shame game. Eating expired twinkies out of a dumpster was more dignified than the snub I had just experienced. Imagine, ME, your devastatingly gorgeous and talented heroine, rebuffed by a trio of f*cktard losers. OH THE HUMANITY!
In the end, only the king of the dipsh*ts, chipped tooth yokel with a Dodge Challenger fetish, engaged me.
“I flip whatever I can get, but my wheelhouse is Yu-Gi-Oh.”
Embarrassed by the 2/3 rejection of my condescending fake friendship, I pretended to wildly give two f*cks about Yu-Gi-Oh. “That’s so cool! Good luck to you.”
The doors mercifully opened and we spilled into the lobby, yours truly was a little shaken up from the overt dweeb rejection, but my cart was chock-full of Shopkins and a little blissed-out muppet who insisted on cheering for me as we checked out.
That night, I regaled Lover Fo’ Life with my tales of new lows and stinging rejection. He chuckled warmly at the tableau I painted. “Poor VIP Cribsy, slumming it with the losers and striking out! If you didn’t have only yourself to blame for the insane situations you find yourself in, I’d almost feel sorry for you. Mark my words, Muffin: In a few weeks, they’ll be eating out of the palm of your hand!”
For once in his long and storied career of being a know-it-all, L4L was wrong…it took 6.5 months to get a single friendly interaction. These toy hustlers were thick as thieves and didn’t need some Jenny-come-lately horning in on their territory.
Speaking of territories, it’s at this point in the story that I break down each players particular toy grind. See, in the game of Toy Hustling, you’ve got to have a specialty.
Chipped toothed Challenger Dude already established that he was a titan of Yu-Gi-Oh industry, and thanks to months of twice a week morning meetings, I soon picked up that Old Man Chompers was a hot wheels enthusiast, and Nebbish was a “Lego Slinger.” As luck(?) would have it, the Shopkins aisle was right next to their stomping grounds: Yu-Gi-Oh, Hot Wheels, and Lego were all visible from my kingdom of cute.
Silently, for almost half a year, we worked our respective beats side by side in complete silence.
After months of chilly reception from the Toy Hustlers (but more importantly, months of SHOPKINS victories,) I started to become a solid gold grinding legend. My dedication was noted by everyone, from store employees to spoiled brats.
Six months in, Chompers and I made eye-contact (by complete accident, no doubt.) My psychopathic sense of charm automatically returned his glance with a full-on beaming smile, he never stood a chance. Chompers was now a “friend.”
Each meeting since, we’ve exchanged pleasantries, even to the point where he’ll now fill me in on his scouting of other stores. With 1/3 of “Operation One of us, One of Us,” successfully completed, I began setting my sights on my next convert, Nebbish.
Let’s face it, in life there are winning winners who love to win, and there are losers. Creeps that are sullen sacks of oatmeal who contribute nothing to the enjoyment of humanity. Where beautiful success dragons like you and I, radiate confidence, there are those who slink away becoming veritable turnips of society. Before you get your self-diagnosed Social Anxiety Disorder panties in a twist, I’m not talking about you, duh. See, you’re magical enough to know where to properly waste your time (on this blog reading my drivel,) so it’s clear that YOU ARE A WINNER! But your skeezy college RA who caught an eye-fungus from his filthy apartment? Yeah, he’s the wallpaper paste waste of humanity that I would have to make fall in love with me if there was any chance of moving Nebbish’s loyalties to across the toy aisle.
The week after Chompers and I began braiding each other friendship bracelets, a terrible cold-front complete with days of nasty storms, hit the area. These horrific weather days did not phase me, matter of fact, it only strengthened my resolve. While leaving the local Target after an early morning grind, I trudged back to my truck in the pouring (freezing) rain. Once inside the vehicle, I noticed a small sedan pull up next to me, it was none other than Nebbish, motioning me to roll down my window.
“Good morning! I shouted.”
“Hey! I um, just wanted to tell you that the Toys R Us Truck isn’t coming today, they’re flooded in at Dallas.”
“OH WOW! Thanks for letting me know, you saved me getting soaked all over again at 10am!”
“Yeah, they’ve promised another truck tomorrow, but I suggest we all call and verify with management this evening.”
“Awesome! Thanks so much for the tip!” I unleashed the friend maker (AKA my big ol’ smile,) he returned the favor with an awkward (but sincere) grin. 2/3 of the way there Baroness.
With two sworn Toy Hustler adversaries now respect-giving peers, there was only one left to win over, Challenger Dude. Once I completed the trifecta of warmed hearts, I could start using all those feet in the streets to my benefit.
After all, Challenger Dude was Lord and Leader of the Toy Hustlers. He had the knowledge, relationships, experience, and specific knowledge that can only be attained by being the weirdo adult hanging out at a kid’s toy store. If I could crack the King, I would be unstoppable. These men would become another set of soldiers on the ground in my war to remain top of the Shopkins game. But first, I had to beat the boss level of Toy Hustler Snub Club.
The first rule of Challenger Dude is, one must respect the ride. See, in addition to wearing a Dodge Challenger NASCAR Racing Jacket™ 75% of the year, Challenger dude, who from here on out will be known as Chally, also drives a tricked out 2014 Grand Poo-bah edition Challenger complete with a f*cktard light kit.
He shows his car both locally and state-wide, and is a proud member of a local Challenger Club. I know all of this because he’s embellished his precious car with decals broadcasting everything.
Chally’s favorite thing to do is hold court with his subjects in the parking lot while showing off the latest enhancement flourished upon his precious vehicle. I’ve caught the man wiping morning dew off of the trunk, and have been there when he skipped the toy grind all together because, “he didn’t want to get dirt on the new clearcoat.” Someone who takes that much pride in their car is always happy to receive complements heaped upon said ride. Whevever the moment struck, I would need to have plenty of Dodge Challenger complements at the ready.
It should come as no surprise to you, but I visit multiple Toys R Us Locations weekly, one Tuesday morning, I arrived just in time for opening at a Toys R Us in a particularly dicey part of Houston, as I parked, I noticed a Dodge Challenger that looked a lot like Chally’s. What were the odds?
As I entered the store, Chally greeted me.
“Wow, I didn’t know you came all the way out here! You’re a long way from our T.R.U. (what Toy Hustlers call Toys R Us.)”
“HI THERE! You know, I saw that beautiful Challenger in the parking and I wondered if it was you! Yep, I’m at this location every truck day.”
Apparently, this was Chally’s first time at this location, he explained the only reason the Dodge Challenger made the joyride out to seedy downtown Houston, was because one of his favorite managers from our home store was transferred there.
My response was quick, “Let me be the first to say, WELCOME! Also, Truck days for this store are today and Friday.”
That was the tipping point, not only had I greeted him like a long-lost friend, I gave him some solid intel. My sweet gesture of information sharing (which I honestly thought nothing of,) opened the friendship floodgates.
“Speaking of,” Chally blurted out, “there’s a location 10 minutes from here (I knew this, as it was my next stop.) I think they might get a truck on Tuesdays too.”(Again, I already knew this.)
Recognizing his gift for what it was, I decided to keep it to myself that both tips were old news.
So, for those of y’all keeping score that’s 3/3, as in three out of three Toy Hustlers agree, the Baroness is relentless (and now a fellow TOY HUSTLER!) Tomorrow morning, I’m going to meet with my brethren outside a blistering and un-shaded Toys R Us entrance. We’ll fill each other in on our respective beats, and report anything out of the ordinary on the grind. War stories will be swapped, but most importantly, rookies will be eye-rolled at and ignored.
Until next time, stay plastic.