I don’t know who you are, but I know you’re out there.
Was that you who just passed me, walking out as I was walking in? Maybe you were
here this morning. Maybe you were already here yesterday.
I’ve had good, no, GREAT luck thrifting in and around Oklahoma City. There are
dozens of thrift stores within a very short drive of my house, and I’ve found
great finds at every one of them. I guess the retro-craze never fully made its
way to the Midwest, at least on the scale that it has taken over both coasts. I
quit buying $5 Sega Genesis consoles and $10 NES systems simply because I got
tired of it. It was too easy. A slow day for me at the thrift stores was one
where I didn’t find at least five or ten things to buy. I’ve picked up several
SMS, Genesis, NES, SNES and PSX consoles as well as several classic computers
for practically nothing, just because they were there.
But now, now there is another.
Over the past couple of months I’ve watched my watering holes slowly dry up.
Thrift stores that used to have plentiful piles of Atari 2600 games now have
been replaced with all-too-familiar stacks of Super Mario Brothers/Duck Hunt
cartridges for the NES. Working consoles and game controllers have been replaced
by ratty old computers and broken flight sticks. The fact that all my sources
dried up overnight has to be more than a coincidence. Something a bit more
sinister is afoot; someone else is buying my stuff.
Over the past couple of years, I wanted it all, and I wanted it bad. Like
clockwork, I’d make my way around the city from store to store, searching for
treasure. Routes became second nature. If I got off the interstate at Macarthur,
stopping at the thrift store there was mandatory … which lead to the store off
of 23rd and Macarthur, which is only a mile northeast of the store at 16th and
Meridian, which is in itself a mile south of the store at 23rd and Meridian. I
had every thrift store, pawn shop, and game store listed in the phone book
written down in my Palm Pilot, sorted by address. No matter where I was in town
or what I was doing, I could tell you the closest treasure trove. My lunches,
for the most part, either led me to the corner of SW44th and Penn (home to not
one but two great thrift stores), or further south to 74th and Penn, where a
thrift store sits next door to a GameXchange. On more than one occasion, I spent
my lunch hour visiting all four locations. My wife was growing tired of hearing
me say “it’ll just take five minutes!” every time we drove past a store on my
list. Getting around in town was taking forever!
And so, I cut back. Instead of hitting my spots on Macarthur every day, I
started hitting them once a week on Wednesdays (the day I don’t carpool to work
with my wife). I quit getting up early on Saturday mornings just to “make the
rounds”. I quit buying every single thing I could find (“Why do you need yet
another Commodore 64 disk drive?” my wife once asked me. “Are you going to buy
every one of them you ever find for the rest of your life?”). So yeah, I cut
back. And someone caught me slipping.
Somebody out there is hungrier than I am. Someone wants it more than I do (or at
least did). Someone is beating me to the punch, beating me at my own game. By
the time I get there, it’s too late. The treasure is gone.
So now when I stop by the thrift stores, I’m not just looking for games -- I’m
looking for you. Was that you, the teenage boy who walked out when I was walking
in, scouring MY stores for ancient relics to sell on eBay? Or maybe you’re the
30-something woman, searching for videogames from her childhood. Maybe you’re
buying games to trade in at one of the multiple used game chains that have
popped up all over town; worse yet, maybe you’re an employee or even an owner of
one of those stores, buying everything on the cheap so you can repackage it and
I’ve been bested -- maybe not by somebody younger, or quicker, or richer, but
definitely by someone more determined. As I look around my game room and admire
the stacks upon stacks of games I haven’t even got around to playing yet, I’d
say I did okay.
So to you, whoever you are, let me give you a little advice. Don’t sleep late.
Don’t get soft. Don’t give up the race. When you do, rest assured there will be
someone right behind you, waiting to take up the slack. Maybe it’ll be someone
even younger, quicker or richer than you are.
Or maybe it’ll be me.