I've pasted this in it's entirety for those of you who may have missed it the first time. I'm currently working on my second submission for the site and will be writing for Mike at TCC at least once per month. Enjoy!!
Time & Money, Money & Time
(from The Cardboard Connection - October 19, 2008)
In my mind I can clearly recall the look of frustration on the faces of those adults wanting to scold a child that wasn't their own. I'll admit, I didn't understand it as I do today, but I can still remember the presence of mild anger as my brother and I stood in the way of those eager to finalize their purchases. Each time, it never phased us or our mission.
One after another, countless patrons scuttled away, throwing their head back in disgust as they wheeled their shopping cart towards a different aisle. Their frustration stemmed from the fact that Justin and I would stand in the middle of the checkout line and rifle through mountains of unopened packs, diligently searching as if to find Wonka's Golden Ticket.
We were entirely oblivious to the fact that all packs were created equal. We scoured each selection as if one were better than the other, constantly stopping to drop one back in the box only to pick up two more that were identical to it. Do we want two packs of Topps and one pack of Fleer or a pack of Score and three packs of Donruss? Decisions, decisions.
After having surveyed the toy and magazine aisles, she would then determine that there was only one place left to look. Most times we would see her first, allowing us the opportunity to preemptively go towards her without having to be sternly informed that it was time to go. But, there were those rare occasions when we didn't see her coming. The day we found Upper Deck's foil packaging for the first time was one of those days.
Of all the customers that were routinely irritated each Saturday afternoon, the most annoyed was always the one currently waiting in line as our mother's radar eventually honed into our position. That customer would usually sigh an overly insulting breath of relief as they slowly backed their shopping cart away, opening the gates and freeing us from that, the moment of our collective addictions.
But, it was always this last customer who witnessed our departure from the aisle that was most irritated. After having waited all this time for us to make our selection, like clockwork, history would repeat itself. The answer was in our mother's mouth as much as in our empty pockets.
"Not today, boys. Not today."
Both of us would slowly trudge back down the aisle. Our hands filled with the wonderful foil packs would turn into empty, clenched and downtrodden fists. We would walk away empty-handed and dejected. A gaggle of unfulfilled patrons as no one won.
It's taken me 20+ years to realize it, but now I see clearly. As a child it's nigh impossible to recognize, much like money, the importance of time.
As the front edge of a buggy bumped into me, effectively knocking me even closer to the ground, I came to realize where, or more importantly, who I was.
Leaping to my feet, I exclaimed, "I'm so sorry! Excuse me," as if I were the person that had just hit another with a shopping cart.
The customer slid past with a look of disgust as I sheepishly disappeared around the corner. Was I more embarrassed that I didn't realize I was in this person's way or that I had just been caught, down on all fours, attempting to see if the bottom shelf had hidden treasures that the upper shelf did not? Regardless, I hurried away, mumbling incoherently how stupid I was, my own rendition of The Chris Farley Show skit from Saturday Night Live.
Eventually I found the courage to return. As I stood there, glaring at the possibilities, I realized that I would not see my mother walking briskly towards me with that look on her face. As with most things in life, I was a bit saddened by this fact as well. Gone are the days.
I rifled through blaster boxes of Chrome and Masterpieces, Ginter and Goudey. I scoured unopened packs of Update and TriStar, all the while checking my pockets over and over again to insure that I hadn't stepped into an alternate universe where kids (and kids at heart) are eternally stuck on Card aisles penniless. Each time the money was still there, the conundrum grew deeper. Do I want one box of Bowman and two boxes of Upper Deck or two boxes of Topps and the three remaining packs of the new Upper Deck X? Decisions, decisions.
Through the process of elimination, I replaced each scenario of purchases with cold doses of reality. A million thoughts went through my head as I whittled away at the selections. Tons of "working" online trades, blog articles that need to be published, birthday parties to attend, work demands, home demands, and family time took precedence. One by one the boxes and packs were placed neatly back onto their shelves.
"I have the money now, I simply don't have the time," I thought.
I made my way toward the exit, glancing down at my empty, clenched and downtrodden fists. I remembered them being much smaller the last time that I walked out empty-handed.
As I walked past the gentleman stationed at the door greeting arrivals and departures, he looked at me and asked, "Did you find what you were looking for?"
I couldn't help but to smile as the words came out of my mouth.
"Not today, sir. Not today."