Yes – I am one of those annoying North New Jerseyans who pretends they know the City. Just accept it. Like any other wannabe New Yorker, I jumped at the chance to show my suitemates around the Big Apple. Our lofty intentions of spending the afternoon shopping downtown were forced to contend with the desire to visit several major tourist attractions. Yikes. Luckily, this proved too ambitious as we found ourselves lured into the trap of FAO Schwarz.
No matter how many times I remind myself that FAO Schwarz is a just an overpriced toy store, when the doorman in his nutcracker suit welcomes me in, my defenses float away, and I forget that the place has been designed to cause small children to throw temper tantrums and force their weary parents to buy them whatever their little hearts desire. I forget that I am well past the age when I should fall head over heels for a doll, a toy, or even a stuffed animal. Indeed, I invariably begin acting like a five-year-old once again as soon as I enter the FAO Schwarz “plushies” room.
This heavenly expanse is filled with any type of stuffed animal you could dream up: Everything from a tiny $25 pig to a $10,000 wooly mammoth whose tusks and sheer size would send any sensible toddler running in terror. My roommates were instantly drawn to a velvety tiger that would easily take up our entire futon, and without any parental units there to hold us back, we put him behind the counter to pick up on our way out.
Next stop was the candy shop. We stayed long enough to make friends with the cashier, who let all eight of us pick one sweet treat each as a free sample. Unfortunately, the softball-sized jawbreakers were not an option. That said, we did manage to get satisfying sugar highs on gummy jaws, chocolate-covered Oreos, rock candy, and other nutritionally damaging foods.
In this state of heightened energy, we ventured upstairs to visit the famous giant piano from the movie Big. We patiently waited in line behind customers who were half my height to jump on the 22-foot long instrument. We split the group in half and made giant piano-playing a competitive sport. Each team tried their hardest to slide the farthest across the keyboard, jump the highest, and play the best songs. Those with distinct advantages were the ones with such extensive musical training that they could play “Greensleeves” with their feet, as well as those with DDR experience extreme enough that they could deliver chromatic scales with impeccable speed. We soon had an audience, though this probably had less to do with our skill level, and more to do with the rare sight of eight college kids chaotically bouncing up and down on a keyboard. Come to think of it, the piano would have been a wonderful addition to the common room – for a mere $150,000.
We then wandered into the doll section. We refrained from designing dolls at the doll factory with the doll section workers, who were dressed as delivery room nurses. The doll section, as one might expect, was slightly creepy overall, complete with haute couture figures, screaming face baby dolls, and dominatrix Barbies staring us down as we walked through the aisle. No wonder so many little girls grow up to have skewed body images.
Our transition into the cars was marked by remote controlled hot wheels careening around our feet. A red miniature Ferrari was on display that cost $50,000 – more than a real 300 series BMW. We agreed that University money would be well spent in switching the strange golf-cart like vehicles public safety drives around campus for a fleet of miniature Ferraris.
The next section caught me somewhere between awe and repulsion, as I asked myself, for the first and hopefully last time, who would seriously take the time to make a life-size Darth Vader out of Legos.
At this point, we realized that we had managed to spend over an hour in what is, after all, a toy store. We tried to escape, found ourselves making detours into divisions of Lincoln Logs and trains, board games and action figures. Finally, we made it back to the plushies counter. We paid for our soon-to-be beloved tiger, had him awkwardly stuffed into a bag, and cheerfully went on our way. After all, who needs to see the Empire State Building when you can visit the happiest place on Earth?