Was I Really at Fry's or in Some Alternate Reality?

frys_logoI’m a list person. Shopping at Fry’s during their 25th Anniversary celebration was not on my list on Saturday, but I guess I missed the huge ad campaign they supposedly ran promoting this event.

If I tell my kids that I have errands to run, and then ask them if they’d like to join me, their normal reaction is to just pretend they didn’t hear me, which is exactly what happened on Saturday.

“Okay then. I’ll just see you guys when I get back from Fry’s,” I said casually as I grabbed for my purse and started heading for the door, knowing full well what their reaction would be.

You would have thought I yelled “Fire!”

“Fry’s?! Wait! Hold on! Just let me finish this level. I want to go,” said both of my previously deaf children.

We drove down to Wilsonville and pulled into the crowded Fry’s parking lot to find…red white and blue streamers and…a petting zoo. WTF?

“Is that a llama in the parking lot?” my daughter exclaimed.

“No, I believe that’s a miniature donkey,” I said, wondering what the connection was between the petting zoo and the anniversary.

We skipped the petting zoo, and walked through the front door to be greeted by a Fry’s employee who handed me a raffle ticket to win some huge TV, and pointed me in the direction of the live music and free popcorn.

I had my list. I was on a mission. How dare they try to distract me with live music, free popcorn and mutant animals in the parking lot. I put on my blinders and headed straight to the cell phone kiosk with my daughter, while my son headed straight to the game aisle. We all had our priorities.

My daughter’s phone contract had expired with AT&T, and I had been pretty stealth about making sure the mailers that showed up in my mailbox weekly made it to the recycle bin before she had a chance to see them.  I was enjoying the fact that the contract was expired and I wasn’t beholden to AT&T at the moment. But, one day she went to the mailbox before I got home, and there it was: the AT&T mailer showing the latest touch screen phone that could be hers if I just signed a new 2-year contract.

So, here we were at the AT&T kiosk, two weeks before her birthday, Mom caving in. She walked right up to the AT&T display and said, “I want that one.”

We were quickly approached by a Fry’s employee who’s name rhymes with Bill.

“Listen,” I said. “Is this phone really free or do I have to sign up for some data package or messaging package to get it? Because when I went into the AT&T store they said this required a data package if I wanted it for free.”

Bill informed me that the AT&T stores operate under different rules than resellers like Fry’s, and that Fry’s did not require a data package, and by the way this particular phone was part of the 25th anniversary special and was indeed free.

Score.

“Great,” I said. “We’ll take it. And do you have a replacement battery for this Blackberry Bold? I know it’s considered ancient by your standards since it’s an older model.”

Bill walked us to the battery aisle, found a replacement battery and walked us back to the phone kiosk so we could complete our phone upgrade.

“I need this phone battery, because I’m leaving for Italy on Tuesday and I don’t want my phone to die every two hours,” I said.

“I’m going to Finland in a week,” he answered, and then explained that his brother had been signed to play on a professional football team in Finland, and he was going to visit him in some city that started with a “J”  and was a couple of hours north of Helsinki. “Oh, Jyväskylä?” I said, because it was the first city I thought of that started with a J. He said he thought that was the place, but I think he may have been thinking of the word “jalkopallon” which means football in Finnish.

Back to business. He started trying to upgrade my phone, and noticed the AT&T plan I had. “Wow. I’ve never seen this plan before.” He called his colleagues over to take a look at it, and they were all scratching their heads.

You see, I have a plan that AT&T doesn’t have listed on their website, doesn’t advertise, and would probably deny its existence if you called and ask for it. It’s $19.99 a month. I got it because I called AT&T to try to reduce my daughter’s monthly phone bill somehow, and I just kept pushing and pushing until I had whittled down the phone plan to the bare minimum. My daughter wants to text her friends. They all live in the 503 area code. That’s it. She can call and text anyone she wants in the 503 area code for $19.99 a month. Excellent.

Because this plan doesn’t actually exist in their upgrade screen it required some manual intervention, which gave Bill and I some time to chat. Turns out Bill is going to law school, and judging from the way he finagled that free phone upgrade I’d say he’ll make a fine lawyer.

We swapped out the battery in my Bold, moved the SIM chip from my daughter’s old phone to the new phone, said our goodbyes and went on our merry way.

Next stop, laptop accessories. I needed a power adapter for the airplane. No, not because I want to work the whole way. I have Rosetta Stone on my laptop, and I want to practice my Italian.

Need an extra storage card for my camera. Check.

Time to head to the check out counter, which as you know requires you to walk the gauntlet of temptation. Fry’s knows geeks and their children well. You came to buy a wireless router, but they know you have a weakness for peanut M&Ms while you install that router. They know you’re going to take that new XBox 360 game home and play it for hours, and you will need sustinence. And they make you wait in that aisle for the next available register, giving your will power ample time to crumble.

I quickly walked through the candy gauntlet, kids behind me saying, “Mom, can I get something,” to which I replied, “No, no and no.”

By the time we got out of Fry’s it was nearly 5pm and the petting zoo was gone, which begs the question, was it really every even there in the first place? Was there really a 25th Anniversary celebration or was that just my alternate reality that day? Was Bill really an adorable law student working at Fry’s for fun while he lived off student loans and got his law degree? Does professional American football really exist in Finland?

If I win that giant TV I got a raffle ticket for I’ll believe it was all real. Until then I’ll believe I was in the Twilight Zone for a few hours that day.

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