A Southern Gentleman Is: Kidnapped at Christmastime



By Rocky Mcelhaney

By the time it was all over – only little more than an hour had passed. Toys-R-Us probably violated all sorts of legal rights that night. Being a lawyer, I am somewhat familiar with legal rights. My wife is a lawyer too and agrees that when Toys-R-Us locked us inside the store and refused to let us leave that we felt that we were falsely imprisoned, if nothing else. Maybe it was kidnapping…

And thus begins the story of the Christmas we were kidnapped… Just before Christmas, Penny and I sprang from our home for some last-minute shopping for our three boys. This shopping excursion fell into the category of buying for the sake of filling the sticking as none of it was  neither needed or wanted. We had just entered the Madison Toys-R-Us when we heard sirens echoing through the cold, rainy night. Unbeknownst to us, a winter tornado was threatening to rip apart Rivergate. Panic ensued.

A store employee, looking like
St. Nick himself, a chubby, plump man with a red face and a red shirt ran, neither lively nor quick, towards the front of the store, you know – where they keep the misfits, on-sale toys, or the “suggested sale” items. I did not see which it was, but either his untied shoe laces or his extra-long black pants, tripped him up near the return counter. St. Nick landed on his knees and slid across the floor, yelling hysterically:

screen-shot-2016-12-15-at-4-04-50-pm“Lock the doors!”

“No one can leave!”

“Everyone to the rear of the store!”

St. Nick’s tempo hastened, his voice heightened, with the steady flow of sweat from his brow. He was panting when he finally stood up on one foot. From the fall and the slide, his pants were all tarnished by ashes and soot – dust and cobwebs. He whistled and shouted:

“Away from the windows!”

“Tornado coming!”

“I shouldn’t have eaten that burrito for dinner.”

Penny was closer to the exit. Quick thinking as always, she grabbed the back of my jacket and pulled me toward the door. But before we could make our escape, St. Nick’s trusty “Elf,” leaped across the counter where a worker was shoving a huge toy into an obviously-too-small bag. He hit a button and all the doors locked tight. Trapped!

By now, St. Nick was waving his walkie talkie around like a gun, shouting incoherently. About twenty of us were ushered by the trusty Elf to the rear of the store as instructed and confined in the Fisher Price aisle. A tall, skinny farmer from Gallatin fussed and fumed. A blue-haired lady from Portland cussed, worried that the Star Wars set her grandson “had to have,” would get taken. A truck driver from Goodlettsville and his wife wanted to be relocated to the Lego aisle – where at least they could scope out their purchases – heads down on the floor, one eye cocked to the shelves above. Mr. Good Wrench threatened to bust down the back door and leave altogether. A couple was huddled in the corner, feeding their baby, enjoying the “peace” and quiet. Their older son wanted the same Star Wars Lego set as Long Haul Lenny’s kid. If there was only one, they must get it first. The plan was hatched. The wife took the bottle from the baby, which started to squall. When our cell mates were properly distracted, the dad got a head start hunting for the Lego set.

“Well played,” Penny whispered.

“Classic,” I replied.

None of us knew what, if anything, we were going to do about it, but we all knew Toys-R-Us could not hold us against our will. We plotted our next move. Mr. Good Wrench argued for busting down the back door. A chiropractor threatened to sue. He wanted to know if anybody knew a good lawyer. Penny and I just pushed up our lips and shook our heads. Long Haul Lenny proclaimed that a class action was in order. He gathered names and numbers and promised to call Bart Durham in the morning. The only names he did not have were mine and Penny’s and the Lego hunter.

Just then, the sirens stopped. Ahhh…only a tornado watch. St. Nick returned. With a wink of his eye and a twist of his head, our kidnappers released us. And so we walked out into the cold, wet air, having bought no presents. But the spirit of the holidays was in our hearts, and we would be forever grateful for a safe and happy end to what would then always be known as that Christmas kidnapping!

Merry Christmas Sumner County!

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