We've all gone through great lengths at one time or another to feed our inner geek. In this quest to "collect them all," it would have behooved me to prepare better or just care less.
I’m not proud of it. I never am. But sometimes even the deepest, most pure Star Trek geek can feel a little self-conscious about their obsession out in the real world.
For me that self-consciousness came to a head back in the summer of 2009, when the new Star Trek film was being released. There hadn’t been anything like it in years in terms of buzz, product placement and cross-promotion.
And one cool, little by-product of that promotion was an extremely underrated piece of product placement from Burger King. OK. They were cheap little plastic toy figurines of each character saying a line from the movie. With big heads. Did I mention the big heads? But dammit they were cool! And I wanted to collect all eight of them!
Of course, the only way to get my hands on all eight was to eat a lot of Burger King. A lot of Burger King Happy Meals. (Or whatever it is Burger King calls their little kid meals that come with a toy.)
Anyway, I’m not a kid person (never had ‘em, never will), but suffice it to say every local area Burger King in my area thinks I have a huge family…and apparently only feed them garbage.
I distinctly remember the first time I went in and ordered two King Meals. (I think they were called King Meals?!?) To keep them off the scent, I ordered a meal for myself, and then slyly layered in “and two hamburger King Meals, please.” That was followed by a well-timed beat and then, “And, um, can you make sure there are two different little Star Trek toys in there for them? They won’t want to have the same one.”
In my mind, I’m thinking, “Sold it! Well done, sir!” My hunt would soon be down to six!
Then from behind the counter, “Yeah, I get that. How old are they?” Me. Blank stare. Thinking. “Oh shit. I really should have thought this through. Needed my backstory locked and loaded!”
After what seemed like an eternity, “Uh, they are five.” (awkward beat) “And, uh, six. Five and six. Uh-huh.” Totally not sold. No doubt in my mind this cashier was on to me.
“Two boys?” she asked. She was taunting me now. I just knew it!
“What are their names?”
Oh for Christsake woman! I know you know! I’m a fraud! The toys are for me!!!
Stumbling, “Peter and…Paul?” (You have no idea how hard it is to make this stuff up on the fly, people!)
Anyway, that was the first of many similar experiences as I tried to “collect them all.” Eventually I had my story down pat. But as I got closer to the end, and the search for the last remaining collectible became more intensified, the pressure mounted.
As I tried to explain to one store a description of the remaining pieces that little Peter and Paul were trying to collect, the manager got frustrated and brought a big box with scores of Trek figures inside. The motherlode, I thought!
As I dug through the box, one last piece remained elusive. My white whale: Prime Spock. It was the “piece de resistance” of Burger King big-head, talking little plastic toys, and it was nowhere to be found.
Near the end of the promotion, and after probably 20-plus Happy Meals (and my regular order, as well, to help sell my ruse!), I was close to giving up. While driving home from work one night, I decided to swing through a Burger King drive thru that was just a little off my beaten path.
As I spoke into the static-filled vacuum of the drive thru speaker, I could barely understand the thick Indian-accent of the manager taking my order. After completing my request, I asked the disembodied voice: “Any chance you have the old Spock toy? He’s wearing like a brown coat.” (At this point in the search, my humility was completely gone.)
From the speaker, through his heavy accent, I could barely hear: “We have little boy!”
Huh? “I’m sorry, what was that?”
“We have little boy! Only little boy!”
The manager sounded excited for me, but at this point I’d given up. “Ok, sounds great. Thank you.”
I pulled up and collected my order. At the first stoplight, I peered inside the Happy Meal to see exactly what “little boy” was. As I pulled Prime Spock out of the box, completing my hunt for all eight “collectibles” I could only think one thing.
“Damn. He really does look like ‘little boy.’”