16th Aug2011

Thrift Justice: Ranger Danger

by Will

So, I had an experience last week that was cute yet troubling. While everything turned out OK in the end, I’ve still been thinking about it for the last few days. Let’s see what y’all think.

A few of the thrift stores I frequent have what you might call “grab bags” in the toy aisle. Standard plastic bags hanging from pegs, these bags contain anything from kids meal toys to actual retail action figures. Part of the fun is identifying all of the random stuff you might find inside. I’ve often wondered if there’s a system as to how the bags are packed, or if they’re weighed or something. It’s just odd to see a Looney Tunes/DC Comics McDonalds toy from ’91 in the bag with a Ron Weasley and a broken Megatron.

Anyway, on this particular day, I found a nice bag packed with Power Rangers. If you’ve read the site before, you’ll know that I hav a bit of a thing for the Rangers. Seeing as how I stopped buying the figures about 10 years ago, I’ve missed out on the more recent stuff. This bag, oddly enough, was filled with things I didn’t own. YOINK!

I walked around the rest of the store, clutching my conquest, trying to see if there was anything else of interest. Not paying much attention to the people around me, I walked right past a little boy who immediately noticed the bag in my hand. His face lit up, as my heart said “Oh, shiiit.” Every kid in that place might as well be an orphan, as they’ve all run off from their parents. True to form, his parents didn’t seem to be around, either.

I took a few steps, and the boy followed me. He caught up to me, pointed at the bag and said “I want that.” I replied, “It’s mine, though. I already got it.” Don’t judge me! I found it fair and square!

He said, “Yeah, but I want it.” I started wondering if this kid was gonna jump me for these toys, or if he’d make a scene. I’m already the grownup in the toy aisle, so Lord knows what people think anyway! I, once again, replied, “You can’t have them, though. I found them over there.” At this point, I gestured over in the general direction of the toy aisle.

“They have more?” he asked. I knew full well that they didn’t have anything quite like the bag I was holding, but I still said, “Yeah, there’s more.” I was hoping he’d run off and join the rest of the little El Salvadorean Oliver Twists running through the store. What he did next, however, broke my heart.

He reached up his little hand, and said “Come on!”. He wanted me to take him over to the toy aisle. I guess he wasn’t so independent after all. Now, at this point, I felt I’d been talking to this child way longer than a grown man should, and I was already hating being seen in discussion with this kid. Now, he wanted me to hold his hand, and walk him over to the toy aisle. Oh, HELL naw! Sweet gesture, but not a good idea.

I started to walk away, but he ran up, still reaching his little hand up for me to take it. So, this was his endgame, huh? Well played. I sighed, and put the bag of Rangers in his outstretched hand. After all, that’s what he wanted in the first place. I can be cold, but I’m not taking toys from a kid. I didn’t even really want the things, and he clearly did.

He smiled, and just turned the bag around in his hands, marveling at everything inside. I was just going to throw ’em in a box, while he was going to enjoy them. I’d made the right choice. So, as he was mesmerized, I got the Hell out of that aisle before he tried to enlist me to go help him look for more!

Now, here’s my issue: that kid needs to be warned about Stranger Danger. Luckily, he found me and I’m far from a threat, but he didn’t know that. He sees a guy with a bag of toys, and he’s all “Sign me up, cap’n!” That’s not cool. That could’ve ended really poorly for him. For me, the takeaway was that I’m not happy to know I’m not enough of a bastard to take toys away from a little kid, but the B-plot was definitely the fact that this kid, and many like him, could be subjected to danger without even thinking about it. If you’ve got kids, teach them the proper way to deal with strangers – especially at the thrift store.