Pat Langdon isn’t much of a video game connoisseur, but he did raise two teenagers at the height of the industry’s explosion.
To that point, Langdon was willing to go to great lengths to fulfill his daughters’ Christmas wishes. Even if it meant waking up at 2 a.m. on the busiest shopping day of the year.
“I’d do anything for my children,” said Langdon, 53, who believes everyone should experience Black Friday at least once in their lives “to see just how crazy it really is.”
He’s been twice, each time to purchase the latest-and-greatest video game console to hit the market.
In 2000, it was Sony’s PlayStation 2. Six years later, the Nintendo Wii beckoned him out of bed before the sun.
Langdon has two daughters, Erika and Marjorie, both of whom graduated from Sierra High. They’re old enough now to know the truth about the origin of those Christmas gifts.
They weren’t built by elves in a North Pole workshop and delivered by sleigh and reindeer. Santa didn’t slink down their chimney, tuck the gifts neatly under their tree and sneak a cookie on his way out.
No, they were purchased by their father, a lead technician for United Air Lines who used his cunning and survival skills to land one of that season’s top techie gifts.
The tale of the PlayStation 2 will live in infamy among the Langdon family. Dad fancies himself as a man of manners and decency, but something changed in him the moment Walmart’s doors flew open that morning.
The crowd turned toward lunacy – and he had no choice but to follow it down that dark path.
“It’s unbelievable. ... People are rude – flat out rude,” he said. “They’re savages. I’ll do anything for anybody, but there are people out there that are crazy and savages.
“I knew everyone was in it for themselves and that’s how I had to be. The bottom line: I remember hearing my kids say they wanted this.”
Langdon took advantage of the chaos, which seemed to catch even Walmart’s staff by surprise. Langdon can’t recall how many PlayStation 2s were available that morning, but if there were 50 in the store, he was No. 54 in line.
He had to make his move. So while the crowd rushed one way, he snuck around the cash registers, stumbling into a pallet of consoles waiting to be sold.
Without so much as a pause, Langdon grabbed a PlayStation 2 and fled the area. He hid out among the bicycles for some time before wandering the store, filling his basket and burying the coveted console beneath items he had no intention of buying. Cases of soda. Clothes. Pet supplies. More clothes.
He carried on this charade for over an hour, waiting for an appropriate time to ditch the cart and purchase the PlayStation 2.
“The kids said they wanted that,” Langdon added, “and I was determined to (buy) that for them.”
All the while, his conscience gnawed on him. Had he bent or broken the rules of Black Friday shopping? Was the person he kept seeing in each aisle following him? Was it security in plain-clothes disguise or another shopper?
Langdon said his buzz was slowly replaced by feelings of guilt and paranoia.
“I walked around for an hour and there was this guy following me,” he said. “I stopped and asked him if there was a problem. He said, ‘No, there’s no problem.’
“When you think you’ve done something wrong, you have a conscience. There I was having this guilty conscience. Every time I turned, I would see that person. For all I know, that person was shopping too. It could have been just that. But no matter where I turned, there they were.”
Langdon would do it again, but only if another “little person” entered his life.
“I would do it today if I had a grandkid,” he said. “I’m a grown man, but I guess I’ll never grow up.”