Shopping with Elmo

It's Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Commentator Steve Case remembers how he spent it 10 years ago — with a giggly, cuddly, and extremely elusive little ball of red fur named Elmo.

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Now, shoppers will be searching malls for PlayStations and Extreme Tickle Me Elmo. That last toy has a long history with commentator Steve Case.

Mr. STEVE CASE (Youth Minister, United Church of Christ): Ten years ago, a malevolent mechanical vibrating giggle struck fear into the hearts of toy store managers everywhere. Tickle Me Elmo was the it toy of the year. I was a temp at a toy store and we had no Tickle Me Elmos, no one did. Elmo even went on the Rosie O'Donnell Show to plead for calm and to ask shoppers to play nice.

Then Scott, our manager, told us we would have about 100 Tickle Me Elmos the day after Thanksgiving. Steve, he said, I'm putting you in charge of Elmo's security. I should point out that I'm about 6'5” and 285 pounds. Our store was to open at 6:00 AM and people were lining up by 3:00. At 0600, Scott raised the metal gate and the men behind the first woman in line tried to run around her. She hooked his foot with the wheel of her baby's stroller and he went down into a stack of Monopoly games. Another man offered me 50 bucks to look the other way while he put one into his bag. I turned it down. Number 100, the last Elmo in the store, went to a woman with a baby strapped to her back. She hugged me and cried against my shoulder for a full minute. I spent the rest of the day apologizing to numbers 101 through 200.

In mid-December, I was offered a youth ministry job. I've never had to worry about Tickle Me Elmo again. But this year, I may just get in line for the 10th anniversary edition, for the grandchild I'll have someday. Then I'll buy who ever is working security a Starbucks, or at least give them a hug.

INSKEEP: Commentary from Steve Case, who's a youth minister with the United Church of Christ in Florida.

From NPR News, this is MORNING EDITION.

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