There are two groups of shoppers this Christmas Eve, relieved Santa helpers who successfully snagged a Nintendo Wii and those desperate souls still standing in line outside a store and inside the two-minute warning.
Or so it seems to us Wii weary warriors willing to wait.
For you folks without kids, grandkids or who have spent the last few years living in a tree on Drum Island, the Wii (pronounced We, as in "We wish Wii retailed for $29.95 instead of $343, including accessories") is Nintendo's state-of-the-art video game system in which "gamers" physically take part in the action. For instance, the wireless remote control allows a fourth-grader to throw a pitch, swing a 7-iron, bowl into a 7-10 split and almost realistically punch classmates in the face (ah, yes, Wii Boxing is such good exercise).
Unfortunately, Wii, Inc., supply/demand manipulation insures Wii waiting for the second Christmas in a row is America's most competitive holiday sport.
Take it from one who Wii-searched this subject extensively.
Outside Circuit City in Spartanburg.
Target in Columbia.
GameStop in Mount Pleasant.
Through rain, wind, darkness and shine.
I had to break up a fight, was almost arrested, endured slacker clerks and incredibly patient clerks, and saw a grandma dig deep into her turquoise pocketbook before offering a nice bribe to move from No. 17 in line to No. 8.
Of course, I advised No. 8 to accept the deal and trade up but he opted to take the money and run to Bojangles.
Fascinating, the cultural differences between a pair of Wii lines in the very same state.
Outside Circuit City in Spartanburg a properly dressed middle-aged woman confronted a man who asked to cut in line, "so I can get my TV and get out of here." She threatened to perform a surgery usually reserved for trained specialists. And on a Sunday morning.
But outside GameStop in Mount Pleasant, we all agreed the friendly mom who was No. 2 in line could go over to Atlanta Bread Company and get coffee without losing her place as long as she fetched coffee for the other four friendly moms in line, and me.
Which brings up the controversial and regionally flavored Wii topic of line protocol.
Wii line rules
1. One Wii per person.
2. Two family members (or friends) can alternately share a spot in line.
3. A bathroom break is allowed as long as it takes less than five minutes (official time kept by next person in line).
4. But bathroom breakers better be back when the designated Wii distributor starts distributing.
5. Same rules apply for coffee runs, donut procurement and medical emergencies.
6. Comfy chairs are allowed.
7. But if you fall asleep, no one is obligated to wake you up when the store door opens.
8. Thou shalt not whine about your "really great kid" who "really wants a Wii" or say you're "really late for work." Or you have to move to the back of the line and remain really silent.
9. No smoking (unless a crazed Spartanburg woman sets you on fire).
10. If you bring tasty food, you must offer to share.
Such human drama probably makes for hilarious boardroom fodder in Kyoto.
Surely, Seattle supply techs are laughing every time they pack up another Wii truckload from a storage depot likely consisting of several overstocked airplane hangers.
But we shall overcome Wii.
Sure, one of Mount Pleasant's finest wondered what I was doing snoozing in a beach chair outside a store at 5:45 a.m. But five hours in line allowed for enough time to write a book chapter and finish all of my Christmas cards.
Eventually, I got my Wii and so much more.
Two holiday party invitations.
A timeshare deal.
Friends for life, no doubt.
Because we who have waited for a Wii develop a unique bond sociologists have dubbed "special" and a newfound confidence making all other holiday shopping pursuits seem effortless.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at firstname.lastname@example.org.