Friday, December 18, 2009


Still not gritty enough for the major studios? Hmm...or perhaps this war journal is simply TOO gritty.

If the commercials for 'Avatar' have shown me anything, it's that people love watching mind blowing, awesome near disasters. Perhaps a more 'modern war camera shaking while the heroes run towards the viewer' approach is necessary.


Dear...OH MY GOD! RUN!

I know you're reading this at home, but I don't care! RUN RUN RUN!!!

My God, they're coming at me from all sides! Lunging up and and down the aisles, crying, whining, and asking a never ending supply of ridiculous questions!

I do my best to race down the aisles safely, with return cart in hand, but with each aisle there's another parent thrusting their newborn children face first into oncoming traffic.

I narrowly avoid another stroller, and begin to wonder how 'intentionally' these strollers are being blindly thrusted forward. All I'm saying is that they DO sell life insurance policies for toddlers. It's a possibility.

Racing down the appropriate aisles, with the PA system blaring out automated orders, as enemy fire (and by fire, I again mean stupid questions) flies by my head, narrowly missing by inches. All I have to do to make it to my section is get around...a lady...

To say that her ass was huge, would not convey the orbiting monstrosity that laid before me. Sure enough, she was bending all the way over, and taking up enough space to fit two full grown men with her posterior alone. I crept, like a trooper crawling by barbed wire, knowing that even the slightest touch would be...awkward and weird, to say the least.

Barely making it by with my life, I nearly smack face first into a...person. A person of a...gender, of some sort, I suppose.

"How may I assist you...uh...misssssst..."

The 'thing' mercifully cuts me off. I hear them talk, but still have no clue what gender to associate with them. They're roughly 16-17, with black feathery hair, a slim figure, a high pitched voice, and a vaguely masculine face. My gut said 'guy', but their hands were the most feminine I've seen on a grown human being, male or female.

I quickly excuse myself, knowing that the slightest misspoken word could end with their emo friends (mix of men and women, so no help there) stomping the ever living sh*t out of me with their Hot Topic boots.

I can only pray that either way, that person never winds up in prison.

A bossy, yet friendly mom casually stops to ask me a question, and I gladly...I mean 'quickly' avert my eyes from her chest. The initial glance revealed that 'they' were not only huge and all but exposed to the world, but also covered in a giant, black 'bird-like' tattoo.

Did I mention that her large, 'biker' husband was about eight feet away?

They also had an adorable daughter in the cart, who was wearing...DAMN IT! Caught a glimpse of the mom's chest again, bad Max! It doesn't help that her tattoo makes it stand out even further, which was probably her intention, but at the same time I didn't think her Hells Angel husband would think the same way.

The buxom mom proves to be my savior, by asking if we have a product up in overstock.

"Oh! Overstock UP THERE? Ah, allow me to look UP THERE to see if there's anything..."

Barely avoiding a metal bat to the head (if 70's biker movies have taught me anything), I avoid a few more lunging strollers, and reach another mom, this time with a cheerful teenage daughter.

They ask a few questions about the fashion accessories, and all goes well, right up until I notice the daughter's stomach.

It's the same problem all over again, only this time with a twist. Despite being 13-14ish, I swear to God, that girl was pregnant. She was even doing the lifetime original movie thing, wearing about three layers and a flannel shirt, as if to cover it...but no, that round belly usually meant only one thing.

I stayed cool. Perhaps I was wrong. After all, everything else seemed to be normal...bizarrely normal. Did the mom not know? How the hell could she not know? If I was the girl's father, I sure the hell would have said something!

Or perhaps they didn't think much of it. I could just imagine...

"Okay honey, you can have the fashion design play set, but no more toys until after you have your illegitimate child, and we go on Springer. Then you can get the Barbie nail salon."

I feared for my life as never before, knowing that a single question or comment would be the end of me. All I needed was a distraction.

Ah! A man over here needs help, perhaps I can help this Hasidic Jewish man instead. He was obviously Hasidic/Orthodox Jewish in appearance, although that didn't mean...

"Oi, these prices are so high! How could they charge so much?"

Oh no.

"Are they any cheaper, discount items on sale?"

I bit my lip.

"These discount toys aren't crumby are they? I want to get a good deal on this."

Why must you test me, oh Lord?

Nearly collapsing from the encounter into uncontrollable (yet very guilty) fits of laughter, I mercifully got called away to the manager's office. The woman in HR showed me a paper that everyone had to sign.


Oh no.

"You see, we need our employees to agree not to say or write anything on the internet..."

I've been made.

"...that might cast the company in a negative or embarrassing light."

I'm screwed.

"That also goes for comments that may cast the customers in a negative or embarrassing light."

Game over, man! GAME OVER!

"Just sign here."

With the best poker face I could muster, I took the pen, and signed my scrawl.

Lord protect us all...

(Squad Sgt Max went missing in action shortly before this letter was aired, although evidence suggests he suffered a vicious attack from a giant giraffe-like creature wearing a red shirt)

Friday, December 11, 2009


Hmm...I can only conclude that the lack of offers from the major media outlets is a result of my journal being far too light and cheerful. No, they obviously want something a little darker, and grittier.


*distant sounds of helicopters in background*

I can't believe I'm back in Saigon...and by Saigon, I mean Toys R Saigon. They swore it was the closest Toys R Us to Freehold, New Jersey and I was too blinded by loyalty to question it.

Retail is war. Worse yet, it's the only form of war where you're required to be polite to the enemy.

Oh yes, retail is war...and war is HELL!

And hell is PURGATORY!

And purgatory is a LONG WORD!

The screams of the kids still echo through my mind, their cries of 'Zuzu Pets' still haunting my soul to its core. The only thing more haunting is what I knew they'd do in order to get one. I shudder at the thought.

Every now and then a rookie asks me a question, as if I'm in charge, not knowing that I was just as clueless as they were as to the purpose of our mission, or the best course of action. I try not to get attached to the rookies. Most of them won't last even a single day out here in the thick of the action.

They just canceled our leave, unexpectedly. The automated announcement over the loud speaker that told us we were closed were quickly followed up by the voice of the assistant manager, assuring the customers that the message was in error, and we would be open for several hours yet.

The groans, curses, and death threats that followed from the staff are all a part of working retail, and every associate goes a little insane from it all.

Last night my mind broke at around 10:30, resulting in my development of a new skateboarding trick: you ride at top speed towards a long metal pole (like a lamp post), leap up into the air, spread your legs wide, and then pass straight through the metal pole, groin first. I call it the 'Kobayashi Maru'. Or better yet, the 'Ko-BOOYAH-shi Maru'.

My insanity is more low key compared to some of the others. Some hoot, some holler, some hit on co-workers less than half their age (I'm looking at you, Kathy), and one guy even ran past me yesterday, hunched over and grabbing at his groin, while not making a single sound.

Others are merely mutinous, resulting in a fair bit of anarchy. Every day I find more and more hidden piles of toys. You could blame it on the customers, but I saw the same items earlier in the day in the 'return carts', waiting to be put back on the shelves. Someone might just have to frag their asses.

And by frag I mean...actually, I just mean frag. No analogies here.

Last night I stumbled upon another pile of returned goods, stuffed towards the back of a shelf. With a low grumble I yanked it out, and found it was a Zuzu pet playset.


Any moment a hundred screaming, raving customers would be lunging for my throat, and clawing at the box in my hands. By the time they'd be finished, I'd be little more than a shred of meat stuck to a pile of bones.

For all purposes, I was holding a live grenade, with the pin already pulled out, and making cute hamster noises.

In a crazed rush I lunged towards the front, hopped on a skateboard, and unsuccessfully performed the Ko-BOOYAH-shi Maru on a six foot stack of 'Hungry, Hungry Hippos'.

The resulting distraction allowed me to ditch the dreaded robotic hamster playset on the front counter.

I'd survived. Another day down, and fourteen to go...

Seasonal Sales Associate, Robert "Maxcat" Freeman

(Robert Freeman died three days later, in a skateboarding related tragedy. His family has asked that all donations be forwarded to Will Shatner)

Friday, December 04, 2009

For those that don't know, I've started working a part time job at Toys R Us this Christmas season. This, along with a few personally relevant Penny Arcade comics, have led me to start a war journal of my time in retail.

Due to intense budget needs (related to my intense greed) I'm pitching the journal to several different producers and TV channels, starting with the History Channel:


My dearest Isabelle,

It's been several weeks since the fighting started, and I now find myself in pitched battle with the people I recently called brother: the customers.

Not to long ago I would've happily walked amongst their kind, but now I count each damn one of them as my mortal nemesis, to either be quickly destroyed, or assisted with as little effort as possible, whichever is more convenient for me at the time.

Even as I write, I can hear the distant screams of small children, each afflicted with the harshest punishment that God could ever inflict upon one of his creations:

Not immediately receiving the toy they want, the second they demand it.

Their screams will haunt me to my dying day, and I can only hope our sons, Ezekiel, Abraham, Solomon, Moses, and Jesus Von Christenmier will never know the same pain.

This morning I was assigned to deliver a message to the front lines. Come hell or high water, I had to track down one General 'Cindy', and deliver a life or death message regarding Zu Zu pets.

My journey was slightly delayed by the appearance of a striking southern belle, who was specifically striking a coworker of mine when I approached. She wailed on and on about Superman toys, not knowing that Superman hasn't been popular since he died, marking him as the Michael Jackson of superheroes.

Nothing could calm the young beauty, as she emitted cries of 'overstock' and 'check the back room'. My fellow brother in arms feebly did his best to help the hysterical woman, as I resigned myself back to my mission.

The darkest moment during my travels was when I came upon a fallen display. The poor sap once consisted of an even pile of scooters in boxes, but now its body was little more than a jumbled mess. A nearby comrade stopped by, and confirmed my fears.


The Docs had to literally pull the poor soul apart, and then reassemble him as best they could. As far as I know he survived, but I couldn't stay behind to make sure. I had a message to deliver.

It was then that I realized the comrade who stopped to help me was none other than General 'Cindy'. The strain of war had destroyed all pomp and grandeur that once existed in her position. Now she was indecipherable from the rest of us grunts, apart from the nametag with the word 'Manager' upon it.

In response to my orders, she gave me back an additional message to memorize and destroy, regarding the Star Wars Lego sale.

Having committed its contents to memory, I discarded the message in the safest and surest manner possible: by stuffing it in a cigar box and tossing it into the center of the road.

Well, I have to go now, my love. May the Lord keep you in his loving arms, and not arbitrarily kill you on a whim.

Your loving husband,

Private Robert 'Sales Associate' Freeman

(Private Robert Freeman would survive the dreaded battle of Black Friday, and later perish from a ferocious toddler attack at the battle of Barbie's Dream Mansion.)