Quest for the great white whale
Call me Ishmael.
Like the character who got dragged along in Captain Ahab's obsessive search for Moby-Dick, I spent the days leading up to Christmas trying to harpoon the great white whale.
I speak, of course, of the elusive Nintendo DS, this year's hot Christmas toy.
At some point I concluded it was nothing more than a legend, but kept searching like the crazed sea captain of the 1800s.
It was the same wherever I sailed. Store clerks claimed they had briefly seen a Nintendo DS. They seemed hopeful that a truck expected from the warehouse might be carrying one. But all the talk didn't put any wind in my sails.
Salty dogs like me went to great lengths in the quest to provide our children with the latest game system featuring touch-screen functions, wireless communications and voice recognition.
My search was complicated by the fact that I needed two of them, once for each son.
I enrolled in the unofficial Greater Hartselle Area Parental Nintendo DS Locator Service, staffed by fellow seekers armed with cell phones.
For two weeks I left home early and made the department store rounds in Hartselle and Decatur. I made daily calls to every prospective store in those cities as well as Huntsville and Cullman. On my way home from work, I stopped back by the stores to try again.
I even resorted to offering bribes to clerks.
Nintendo says it sold its first batch of 500,000 units about a week after their Nov. 21 release. On Dec. 9, the company issued a press release that said shoppers "can rejoice" because Nintendo was shipping 1.4 million more.
Ten days later, there was still no rejoicing.
'Twas the Sunday before Christmas when the legendary beast surfaced at Kmart in Cullman. I quickly speared it with a Compass Bank debit card.
And so was born a new dilemma. Which of my sons would receive it and which would get an IOU for Christmas?
I wrung my hands over this decision until Dec. 22, when a call to the same Kmart made a hit. The store had received five that day and sold all but one. I talked the clerk into hiding it until I could get there about 30 minutes later.
The next day, an excited representative of the Greater Hartselle Area Parental Nintendo DS Locator Service called. She said she was standing before a fresh shipment at a local superstore.
I thanked her, but said my search for the great white whale had ended.
Despite the difficulties of this long and perilous voyage, I feel fortunate. After all, Captain Ahab lost a leg and his mind in the quest for Moby-Dick. I still have both legs.