Alas, I scampered up to the wrong side of the building. The exit. I had never noticed it before, but Toys R Us has only one entrance. And a slim one at that. It is underneath a giant, and I mean giant star with Geoffrey Giraffe waving. That star could kill someone if bonked appropriately. So I cautiously scampered over to the middle of the building, shivering, took one look at that neon monstrosity, and rushed inside.

Whoa! And I almost fell on my ass from the sopping wet floor. How many more near-accident experiences would I meet before pressing on? Ah, finally the warm heat of the air vents the slide of the automatic door, and blast! Shimmer! Glow! The store hosted a ridiculously bright light, dizzying me with overwhelming colors and larger-than- life toys. I squinted to find my desired path in the blazing neon light. Are kids’ eyes this susceptible to artificial illumination? God, I hope not.

This Toys R Us had been remodeled, and aside from the blinding light, the store appeared less grand and awe inspiring than from years before. I remember back in the day, a warehouse type toys r us, with towering metal shelves holding dolls and board games up to the rafters. Now everything was at eye level. Probably easier for kids to grab.

I turned to the right and perused the holiday aisle. I had never seen so much plastic in my life. Enough to certainly keep the oil companies in business. Maybe George W. has some stock in Toys R Us… hmm… anyway, I saw quite possibly every cartoon and movie character possible with their own Christmas line. Stockings, cards, poseable figures. And the stuffed animals! Large enough to smother your kitten or maybe even child? Dangerous puff stuff. And this aisle needed some serious damage control. The way the Hokey Pokey Elmos were thrown around, you’d think that a mob of rhinos had struck. I cautiously peered around me for any stragglers.

The electronics areas seemed simpler… but not. Buzzing electricity, or the capacity for it, filled the aisle. It’s surprising that children do not come with batteries nowadays. Whatever happened to simple toys such as building blocks or board games? With actual boards and not a computer screen!

And speaking of board games, I found 800 varieties of Monopoly with no sign of the original. And Mouse Trap didn’t even look like the Mouse Trap of old. The cover featured swirly designs of crazy mice pandemonium. Ah, popomatic Trouble. Wait a minute, maybe we should all just forget the board games. Popomatic Trouble can’t compare to the trouble seen when a child loses.

I decided to try to find the old staple, the teddy bear. Instead, I was led to an aisle of robotic, talking toys. Toys that wiggled and cried and sang and jumped. I must admit, I did enjoy the resurrection of Care Bears that the store boasted, but one look at the 40 Scooby Doos dancing and barking and eye rolling was like a bit of a bad trip. The toys’ beady eyes stared at me as if they were on attack, repeating the same phrases over and over, just dying to get out! And the 80 varieties of that screechy-voiced Elmo did nothing for me. Limbo Elmo, Sunny Day Elmo, Chicken Dance Elmo… If I saw one more red poof, I was going to scream. I was alone in the aisle, so I quickly sped over to the next. Creep out? Yes, I think so.

I turned, panting to find the Barbie aisle and what seemed to be sectioned as the girls section with the three staples: dress up, Barbies, and Easy Bake Ovens. Ah, the Barbie aisle. What could be more comforting than a sea of pepto bismal pink? At least less threatening than the Elmo red. And Barbie was familiar, an old favorite. Something could definitely be found here.

Ok, so Mattel has made strides to be politically correct, but the only Barbies I could find did not include Astronauts or Teachers like the cover-ups of old, but princesses. Mostly princesses. Mattel did its best to be pc with the princesses of the world collection. I saw a Princess of the Danish Court, Portuguese Empire, Ireland, and South Africa. Hmm. I’m surprised in this day and age, Mattel is still pushing the princess card. Hey, why slave at a cubicle all day when you can marry Prince William? And a giant princess of My Size Barbie? What three-foot tall four-year-old child wouldn’t be scared of that? I know that I was a bit miffed when My Size Barbie had bigger breasts than me.

And here we are. The newest fashions for Ken as well. The Fab 5 would be proud.

Dress up clothes followed the same theme as Barbie. Little girls can be whatever they want: a fairy, a princess, a ballerina, and even a mermaid. But what about little power suits for the Condi Rices and future Oprahs? Those fashions seem to be highly underplayed.

The play car section frightened me as a Barbie VW bug had a larger value than my own car. As my junker is valued at just $300,maybe it's time for me to trade it in for a Kawasaki mini-cycle or a brand new Jeep.

And the next turn unveiled the boys section. Mini cars and trucks, swords, and action figures the staple here. I must admit I did fall in love with an $80 electric Mini Cooper, twice the size of my dog and probably capable of going 30 mph on linoleum. Look out, family pet.

But what about those little boys that are somewhat… hmm, sensitive polo wearing fellows. What do they play with instead of fire trucks? Audis? Hey, parents should never deny honesty with their children.

Loud shots of gunfire rang out from the aisle next to me, and well, just adhering to this day and age, I jumped and ducked for cover. Slowly, I surfaced to find a toy machine gun. Hey, sadly, you can never be too sure.

As I neared the end of my trip, I started feeling sick from all the bright colors. It would be a relief to go back into the gray blizzard and go home to slip into my gray sweat suit. Now I know what old feels like.

On my way out, half walking half running, I noticed that the aisles were extra long and were not only filled with candy, but little trinkets of all kinds. Surely, that has antagonized some screamers.

The lack of children in the store was a disappointment, but understandable during the Christmas season. But possibly the store could be more adult-friendly since they’re the ones usually shelling out the dough. Maybe a coffee bar or massage parlor perhaps? God, you’d need one after stepping into that circus.

So did I find gifts for the little ones? Sadly, no. Call me old fashioned, but I decided on giving books for Christmas. Classics, such as Beverly Cleary and Curious George can’t hold a candle to Disney’s flavor-of-the-month action figure. I know that some people groan and say, it’s Christmas, give the kids something fun, but after an encounter with the mega Toyland Toys R Us, I prefer the old person bookstore any day. But I could have walked away with one gem. The best toy in the store worth battling for? The ZZ Top Dancing Hamster. By Nicole Schuman

I recently risked my life in the Buffalo tundra, facing blizzard conditions, sliding down Transit Road to revisit one of my favorite childhood destinations, Toys R Us. Although visibility was minimal, and plows few and far between, sure enough, soccer moms and SUVs filled the lot. So I threw on my parka, tossed my scarf over my shoulder, and pushed full steam ahead, bearing the whipping winds to find some goodies for my kooky cousins.