99 cent party
It’s like some white trash god came out of the sky and took a huge crap on us. That’s how I felt as we pulled into the parking lot and descended on the 99 cent store. Nico, my WT princess, has a homemade pink tiara on, day old princess face paint, and about eight temporary tattoos, including a tribal choker. Anton, my WT superhero, has homemade blue tiara on, day old Spiderman face paint with only the eyes left, a similar barrage of tattoos, and the dirtiest ass sweatpants that I think I found in the gutter in a crack induced haze and said “oh, these will look great on you.” We pile out of our dirt caked, busted windshield, dented fender minivan and I can feel the Hollywood slow motion shot of the three of us emerging onto the scene. Nico and Anton are clutching their allowance dollar bills raised high above their heads, me closing the sliding door like I’m pumping a shotgun as we all embark on our 50 yard journey from the car to the store. Somehow I get this feeling that the world at the 99 cent store had stood still before we arrived.
The excitement is palpable, I mean majorly palpable (dude, it’s palpable, okay?). A purple and green 99 cent store shopping cart catches our eye as we pass and Nico says “ooh, we can get that for 99 cents!” (honey, we can just take that for free). The front doors whoosh open and there we are at the threshold of the biggest damn 99 cent store I have ever seen. Yes, I have been in a few 99 cent stores, okay? And this was like a supermarket 99 cent story, produce and all (yes, they had produce!). Anton looks up at the ceiling and says “coowal!” And it was pretty cool; a super high domed ceiling with fancy bas-relief and stuff like that. I wondered aloud what the place used to be and my question was immediately answered by the 99 cent store docent. “Oh, this was an old fashioned movie theater. Up there is the screen. And there were the speakers. And up there is the balcony. And there’s another row. They couldn’t mess with none of this ‘cause it’s a historical landmark. And if you come back over this way you can really see…” Nico and Anton were looking at me like “hey asshole, the toys are this way.”
Anton immediately gloms onto a Spiderman flashlight the size of his pinky (batteries not included) while Nico slips into this “hmm, okay I like this, hmm” phase of shopping. We wander down the beauty/clothing/crazy miscellaneous isle and I catch a glimpse of a home pregnancy test out of the corner of my eye. Okay, here’s the real dichotomy of the 99 cent store. Some items probably cost half a cent to manufacture like the Spiderman flashlight, while others must cost close to a dollar like the pregnancy test. Their margins are all over the map, but they’re stuck to the 99 cent rule. There must be a really smart MBA with one helluva calculator and a slick psychology book sitting in the 99 cent HQ. On the other hand, maybe the generic brand pregnancy test is driving some poor woman crazy because it’s really just a recycled Dora the Explorer invisible ink activity book.
At the checkout, each of the kid’s items ring up to $1.08. They hand the cashier their $1 and I say “Ha ha, you forgot about tax! No toys for you!” No, I didn’t say that, but I was thinking it. Actually, they slipped an extra item each past me. By then it was too late. I wasn’t about to sit there waiting for the manager with “the key” to come and back out a $2.16 transaction. Plus my kids would’ve kicked me in the shins and yelled that they were being kidnapped.