A Letter to My Dog, Half Pint

This last year may have been the worst one of my life, but at least I've got the world's two greatest dogs by my side to help me stagger into 2018. Today's post features a letter to Half Pint. Benjamin will be getting a letter later this week--he'd never let me hear the end of it, otherwise. Also, this posts features a lot of short video clips of Half Pint being silly. Since I apparently can't do anything right these days, they are exclusively shot in vertical mode. Please accept my apologies (and cut me some friggin' slack).

Another Amazing Nick Story: My Battle for She-Hulk

(photo @ marvel.com)

In the very unlikely event that any of you thought I was at all cool, I'm about to completely shatter that notion right now: My name is Nick Nafpliotis, and I am an adult action figure collector. 

I used to enjoy collecting toys when I was younger, but somewhere along the way I became convinced that I couldn't anymore due to being older. A few years ago, however, I realized that no one could tell me it wasn't okay to pick up these wonderful pieces of plastic artwork of my favorite fictional characters and proudly display them. I was an adult, I was making money, and I had already found/tricked a beautiful woman into marrying me that was well aware of my dorkiness.

When my wife, Karen, began noticing the toys that were filling up the bookshelves and tables in our house's dedicated "Man Cave," she responded by saying "Well, it's better than you buying crack or hookers, I guess."

Just kidding, sweetie.

If you dared to click through the link I placed in the preceding paragraph, you probably realized a couple of things:

1. My photography skills are terrible
2. I really like Spider-Man.

While I tend to stick to the web head for most of my toy purchases, I do branch out into some of my other favorite characters. One character I really like (especially when Dan Slott writes her) is She-Hulk. She tends to be incredibly smart and funny in both her Hulk persona and in her "normal" form as lawyer, Jennifer Walters....and she also can open up quite a can on any super villain out there.

She also has the incredible ability
 to make me actually like Greg Horn's artwork.

However, when I found out that Hasbro was making a single carded figure of Ms.Walters, I didn't really think much about it; I tend to stay away from their toys based on female characters. It's not because I'm sexist, but because they tend to look like meth addicts that are suffering from scoliosis and several botched plastic surgeries.

So when I was running some errands and did a fly by check of one of my local Walmart's toy sections, I wasn't looking for anything green to catch me eye. Even if I was, the hobby of toy collecting has become incredibly frustrating due to the fact that big box retailers seem to be completely against restocking anything....and Hasbro seems content to let toys from months (and even years) ago sit on the shelves and rot.

To be honest, I'm not even sure how they make money anymore.

Guys, I just came up with a great new sales plan!
Let's make it so that customers can never find our new products in stores!

So you can imagine my surprise when I walked into the toy aisle and saw remnants from one of the latest waves of Marvel Universe action figures....which was of course picked over and had only the figures I didn't want left on the pegs.

But as I was about to walk away, a shimmer of green caught my eye. When I looked, I found that Hasbro had made an incredible plastic figure of "Shulkie." Not only had they finally seemed to figured out the female anatomy, but the detail and paint applications (especially on the hair) were incredible.

I decided right then that I had to add her to my collection.

And yes, I'm aware that the last sentence 
I wrote has probably been uttered by serial killers before...shut up.

I confidently strode up to the register with my regular "grown up" purchases and my shiny new toy. As I waited in line for the next 20 minutes (this was Walmart, remember), I began to get a little bit nervous due to the fact that I had encountered some...resistance...at this current location before.

A few months ago, I bought what would become my new writing companion, Mr. Dewback. When I sent my items through the register, the cashier stopped, gave me the stink eye, and asked "Are you actually going to pay money for this?"

Instead of asking if it hurt while her soul was being crushed by her current employer, I politely said yes, paid for my toy, and brought him back home.

 Where he is currently 
very happy and well taken care of.

When I finally got up to this cashier, however, she didn't say a word. She simply scanned my items and placed them into the bag...until she got to She-Hulk. As she scanned it through, a loud and obnoxious beeping emitted from her register. She tried a few more times, but couldn't seem to get the right "beep" to occur.

"This isn't ringing up for some reason," she explained. "Let me go ask my manager what I need to do." 

As I sat at the register waiting, people began to line up behind me. I felt bad delaying their shopping experience and making them spend any more time than they had to in this place, but this was not a that I had anticipated (like the people who get up to the front of the line and end up $50 short for their order could have).

When the cashier came back, she had a very sad and worried look on her face. Looking as if she knew what my reaction would be, she softly murmured "Sir, this item was not supposed to be put on the shelf yet. We will not be able to sell it to you at this time."

While my heart screamed with righteous indignation and anger, my brain couldn't quite process what had just happened.

"But...I took it off the peg," I explained as if that would somehow fix things.

"I know sir," the cashier replied, "but it wasn't supposed to be there."

"Well, can I put it on layaway or reserve it somehow?" I asked. "Because I know that when you do put this thing on the pegs and let it be sold, it will be gone in a heartbeat.

"No sir, I cannot do that," she replied.

I turned my head and noticed that the woman behind me was now regarding me as just about the biggest loser on earth. I considered the possibility that it may be time to give up and resign myself to searching and paying an inflated price for the toy online...or, I could become "That Guy."

"Ma'am, may I please speak to your supervisor about this," That Guy asked.

When she brought back her supervisor, she profusely apologized to me, but said they still could not sell the toy. I explained that since it cost the same as the other ones (which had been on the pegs for nearly a year), why couldn't they just ring it up under the same price point?

To my surprise, she was willing to try that.

"Just let me call down to Tony in the toy department," she said.


I'm honestly not sure if she her voice was coming in over the intercom or it was actually just that loud, but Tony and every single person at the front of the store heard her, turned their heads, and began silently judging me. Still, I kept my head held high. For me, this was a real moment of clarity; I collected toys, and I was not ashamed (for the most part).

After not receiving any help from Tony, the supervisor asked me to show her where I got the toy from so that we could scan the price label manually.Despite my frustration, I was very appreciative of the extra help (which is a rare thing to ever find at Walmart).

We went back and found the sticker, but her scanner would not enter the price.

"That's alright, hon," she reassured me. "I typed in the price, so we can just go back and type in the toy's name manually. We headed back to the register, where I then discovered that this supervisor was one of those people that has to vocalize unfamiliar words while she types them...very loudly.

"S...H...E....UMMMM....HYPHEN....H....U...L...K. SHE HULK!" she loudly proclaimed as the woman in line behind me shot eye daggers into the back of my head. 

"There you go, hun," she said with a smile. "Sorry about all of the confusion."

I'm not sure if her loud announcement of my purchase was on purpose or not, but I was too happy to care. I just truly appreciated the help...and the fact that a great action figure of She-Hulk is now part of my Marvel Universe collection.

I'm not sure why she insists on standing next to
the AT-ST, but who am I to argue with Shulkie?

Please feel free to leave a comment below. If you'd like to sing my praises or tell me how terrible I am more personally, I can also be found on Twitter.

You can listen to Seth and I go a little more in depth on this incident, our action figure hobby/embarrassing obsession, and much more on last week's podcast.

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