The Legend of Buying Zelda

Andrew Kaufmann

   Have you ever wanted something so badly you forgot why exactly you wanted it? It happens to me all the time. Desire becomes mutated into a logic-consuming monster. As I grow older, I feign believing that I'm possibly outgrowing such spells of irresponsibility. On one particular fall day, however, I proved to myself that maybe you just don't outgrow some things.

   The sun was shining more brightly than usual on this late November mid-afternoon, a spiteful reminder that the world continues to function on bad days. It was a bad day indeed, though not tragic; failed tests, female rejections, and a run of sleepless nights combined to make me one cranky individual.
   I was driving south on I75, enjoying the open road after having just spent an hour or two waiting in a doctor's waiting room to have a few stitches removed. As I drove, I realized I wasn't in the mood to go back to my dorm room and work on homework, so I pondered how to kill some time out on the roads.
   As I approached the Park Lane exit, I remembered that The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time was to be released that day. Park Lane was the necessary exit to reach the mall, so I hastily cut off a burly truck driver and burly mother driving a medium-sized tank (better known as a Suburban) while switching from the far left lane to the far right exit lane.
   Normally, I avoid being a jerk on the roads, but I've got to admit that was pretty fun.
   After spending half a tank of gas while circling the parking lot at the mall hoping to find a spot in Dallas county, I hopped out of my car and began the long trek into the mall.
   I knew EBX wasn't going to have any copies of Zelda left. After all, it was the most anticipated game released thus far for a popular system with too few quality games out on it. Regardless, my hopes were high as I crossed the threshold of the store.
   "Excuse me," I said politely to the burly employee, trying hard not to rudely interrupt his busy activity of staring straight ahead. "Do you have any copies of Zelda left?"
   He looked at me with a blank stare as if I had a rubber tree plant growing out of my nose. Finally, he shook his head. I asked when they would get more copies in and was disappointed by his vague reply of "hopefully before Christmas."
   The moment I left the software store, the delicious smell of freshly cooked food caught my attention, dragging me to the front of a quaint looking mall restaurant with a huge line outside it. So I went to McDonald's. I sat in lonely silence eating my greasy french fries when an attractive young lady walked up to my table.
   "Is your hair naturally that blonde?" she asked sincerely, apparently not noticing my black eyebrows and black goatee.
   "Haha," I said smoothly.
   She blinked. "What's so funny?"
   I blinked. She walked off.

   I tried to plan out the rest of my day as I walked the many dreary steps to my car, and the only thing I found myself sure of was that I didn't want to study. With each stride I became more sure of that, and started thinking about other stores that could even possibly sooth my vague desire of finding Zelda.
   A police car behind me kept me acting reasonably sane on the roads as I changed directions and headed north along the freeway service road. Stop number two was CompUSA. They had sold all their copies of Zelda, naturally, but they did have a playable copy on display. I stood in line behind an eleven year old with a buzz cut and a Pokemon t-shirt for twenty minutes, patiently waiting for the guy to either give up the controller or at the very least leave the first town.
   Bored to tears, I tapped him on the shoulder and politely asked if I could give the game a try. He didn't turn around. I left CompUSA, irritated at the twenty minutes I wasted. It turns out, however, that the buzz cut boy's selfishness was one of the luckier things that happened to me that day.

   One block up the street from CompUSA was Best Buy. Once in the games section, I found several copies of Quest 64, but no traces of Zelda. Just in case, I waited for an employee to meander, lost, into the section. I stopped her and asked if they had any copies of Zelda. She seemed horribly confused and flustered by the question, and scurried off to find someone that could possibly know the answer to such a difficult question.
   Five minutes later, she returned.
   "What was the name of that game, again?" she asked.
   "Err. The Legend of Zelda, for the Nintendo 64," I said, hoping to make it as clear as possible.
   "Can you spell that for me?"
   "No. Zee. As in zebra. Zoo."
   "Oh! Zelda! OK, hold on, I'll be right back."
   This time she returned more quickly, but the report was dismal. "Sorry sir, we don't have it."
   I was dissappointed, but now determined. Nothing was going to get in the way of my finding Zelda. I was a man on a mission. At this point, the game itself was secondary to the desire to find a copy of it.
   As I was walking out of the store, I remembered I needed some AA batteries. I paid for them, and as the cashier pulled out an oversized bag to put it the batteries in, I said, "Oh, I don't need a bag." Undaunted, she put the batteries in a bag and took a sheet of paper from a pile and placed it in the bag with the batteries. I shrugged, took the bag, and left the store.    When I got to my car, I looked at the sheet of paper. It was a chain letter. I tossed it out the car window, and decided I needed Zelda to turn today into a good day. Nothing was going to stop me from finding Zelda. Not disgruntled employees, not selfish children, not holiday shoppers. Nothing.

   Toys R Us was located directly above Best Buy (it's a weird setup), so I naturally checked them next. Their video games section had expanded since I was last there as a child, but the location was the same. All was right with the world as I walked up to the Nintendo 64 section where a tall, goateed employee was talking to a young looking Asian American male.
   "No, we don't have any copies left, but you might want to try Circuit City," the employee said.
   "Where is that?" the guy asked.
   "Just go up the Central service road a couple of blocks, it'll be on your right."
   "Are we talking about Zelda?" I interruped. Manners are annoying, I was tired of using them on that day.
   "Yeah. We're out, but I was saying to this gentleman to try Circuit City," the employee offerred helpfully.
   I thanked him, manners returning briefly. I left, a handful of steps behind the other guy.

   Circuit City was a dismal failure. I looked all over the store, unable to find any Nintendo games. All they had were a handful of PlayStation titles. Every so often, as I roamed the aisles hoping to find the magical golden box, I would see the guy from Toys R Us poking about with the same intentions. Finally, we both ended up by the Playstation games, frustrated.
   "This stupid place must not even carry Nintendo games," he grumbled. I nodded.
   "Let's go up to customer service and ask, just in case," I offerred. He agreed. Unfortunately, the Customer Care Representative confirmed our fears. They didn't carry Nintendo games. I was frustrated, but I knew of one more store that carried games: Service Merchandise. I told the other guy the plan, and he nodded. He knew where it was, so I got in my car and he got in his olive green Jeep Cherokee (looked to be about a 1990 model, very boxy looking, not a Grand Cherokee); we had ended up parking right next to each other.
   Service Merchandise was only a few blocks north on the expressway, and I was on the other guy's bumper the whole time. We parked next to each other and charged madly into the store.
   It was my last hope. I was out of ideas after this. This had to be it. My day would be a failure if this wasn't it. They had to have it. It must be here. It must. It must.
   It wasn't. The employee shook his head. The other guy was clearly as dissappointed as I was.
   I sighed. "Dude, I'm out of ideas. I give up, I'm going home."
   He looked surprised that I would give up. "No way man, don't give up yet. Come on, let's go to Target."
   I shook my head. "Target's never good for getting games, man. They always get stuff late."
   He gave me a light hit on the shoulder. "Come on, it can't hurt to try. It's not that far. Don't give up."
   Reluctantly, I nodded. What did I have to lose? If I didn't go, I'd have to spend my time studying, anyway.
   The other guy took a right onto the freeway service road, but I decided to take the backroads to Target. I rolled down my windows, turned up the music, and began to just enjoy driving the little used residential streets along my little shortcut. The bright sun warmed my car and cheered my day. I had a good feeling.

   The Target parking lot was full, but I found a spot right next to a 1990 olive green Jeep Cherokee. Apparently my shortcut wasn't much of a shortcut.
   Envigorated, I jogged into the store where I was greeted by the familiar Target smell. Memories of many hours spent at Target as a young child filled my head, and I continued to jog to the video games section. The other guy was waiting for me.
   He saw me coming, and with glee in his face he handed the cashier at the video games section his credit card and exclaimed, "They have ONE copy left!"
   My heart sank. He had gotten the one copy. We were brothers by fate in our quest for a game, but fate had gotten him to the store first. A right turn onto the service road made the difference.
   "I thought about saving it for you, because I knew you were coming, but I didn't know your name," he continued.
   My heart skipped a beat.
   "Wait, you mean, there's one more? After your copy?" I asked. Hope filled my lungs faster than air.
   "Yes!" he said with a wide smile.
   I jumped and did a fist pump, the same move Michael Jordan used after a last second playoff victory. I could have hugged the other guy. Without him, I never would have come to Target, and I never would have gotten the special item. Without the 11 year old punk at CompUSA, I never would have bumped into him at Toys R Us. Fate had worked with me.
   I settled down as the cashier said, "You haven't signed this credit card, I can't accept it unless you have two forms of ID." So the other guy opened his wallet and pulled out a Southern Methodist University ID card and handed it to the cashier. I was shocked.
   "You go to SMU?" I asked, obviously surprised. He nodded. "So do I!"
   He laughed, and we talked briefly about the usual campus small-talk while the cashier rung up the sale. When the cashier handed him the bag with the magical game in it, he extended his hand; I shook it. "It's been fun, man. I'd wait for you but I'm going to hurry back and play it!"
   I laughed, and thanked him. I owed him one.

   I had to stop at EBX on the way home to pick up a Nintendo 64. In my obsession, I had forgotten a minor detail: I didn't own the system the game was for.
   I never did learn the other guy's name, which I regret. Who knows, maybe we'd have become lifelong friends. But then again, maybe we already are lifelong friends, connected for one day by a loyal bond formed during a trivial yet epic adventure.

   I still haven't finished playing through the game.

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