By the by, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Funky Kwanzaa to each and every one of The Four Of You. I hope you were appropriately and thoroughly begifted, ate well, properly coated in crushed-up Shredded Wheat, or whatever is the custom around the holiday you celebrate.
Growing up as a technology geek in California, and within driving distance of the Silicon Valley thereof, Fry’s Electronics was Mecca. As soon as I was old enough to travel there by myself, a Fry’s run was a regular and necessary part of every San Jose trip.
(For those of you who have never been in a Fry’s: Take a Best Buy. Roughly double the size. Now graft on a similarly-doubled Radio Shack. Stick a Starbucks in the middle, and the World’s Longest Magazine Rack in front, including one of the finest selections of printed pornography outside of a city tobacco shop. Finally, take all of the employees and replace them with disdainful minimally-paid workers who speak very little English. Don’t worry, it’s part of the charm.)
Anyhoo, when I moved up here, I missed Fry’s terribly. The opening of a couple Best Buy’s within easy driving distance of my place made it a little easier, but there was still that something. Then, a year and a half ago, it finally came to fruition: a Fry’s store was opening in Renton.
For the longest time, I wouldn’t go. Renton was a pain in the ass to drive to, reports indicated it was always crowded as hell, and most importantly, I had read articles talking about how friendly and helpful the staff were being trained to be. Friendly? Helpful? That’s not the Fry’s I know.
Anyhow, the weekend before Christmas, I got a wild hair to finally go to Fry’s. I needed an adapter so I could use PlayStation 2 controllers on a PC’s USB port, I didn’t feel like waiting to order one from (or paying insane shipping fees to) the overseas accessory shops, and regular computer stores don’t carry that sort of thing. But Fry’s does, my friends. Fry’s does.
So down I drive to Renton, with no information other than the knowledge that Fry’s is in Renton. That should be enough, right? I mean, it’s freakin’ Renton, and this is Fry’s. Should stick out like a sore thumb.
…well, after fumbling around for 20 minutes in downtown Renton and coming across only the one monolith that is Sam’s Club, I grab a newspaper (The Saturday one-page Fry’s ad runs on the back of Section 1, and that’s apparently no exception in Seattle), and find out that the Renton Fry’s is in Renton the same way that I live in Seattle…if you went a couple blocks north you’d be in another city. I missed it by two full exits, and to this day I have no idea how this is possible, as when I approach it from the south it’s quite visible from the freeway and exactly what you might expect: a MAMMOTH FREAKIN’ BUILDING with a MAMMOTH FREAKIN’ PARKING LOT attached to it, sporting the familiar Fry’s logo on both the front and back.
I think I burned a full year’s worth of Parking Karma when I pulled into the lot, as I kid you not when I tell you the spot LITERALLY closest to the store opened up JUST as I got there. And as you would expect for the week before Christmas, this was not a slow day. People were parking all the way out in Goofy. (That’s a little joke for anyone whose ever been to Disneyland before they turned the parking lot into that ridiculous roller-coaster park.)
So I went inside. And I was home again. The salespeople were, as I’d been warned, somewhat more helpful than I was expecting, but it’s my hope they were just holiday temps and that they’ll be worthless again if I go back in a couple months.
So, long story short, if you wanna know what it’s like to be a geek in the World’s Center of geekiness, make the pilgrimage to Fry’s at least once. Expect to buy something. You won’t regret it.