From Best Buy to the Bread Line

Staff reporter Carrie Edith Woods checks in with two laid-off computer technicians in this "man-on-the-street" profile.

CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA - As Thanksgiving approaches, layoffs are mounting and the economy is slipping further into recession. Two men, standing in line for free bread at the Cedar Rapids Shelter House, reminisced about "the good ol' days, y'know, like in 2006."

"Two years ago, on Black Friday--the day after Thanksgiving--Ben and I camped out for three nights at Best Buy to be among the first 50 in line for a Playstation 3," Phil Romanoke, 29, said.

"But it was so cold on the first night that I got frostbite on the tips of my fingers and had to have them cut off," he said, showing me his hands. They looked pretty normal, I said. "They grafted skin onto the tips from my ass cheeks," Romanoke said.

"I wasn't ready to give up. Ben saved my spot in line, and I returned--with gloves--two days later on Thanksgiving," Romanoke continued. "The next morning, we both scored our own Playstation 3 video game consoles. Of course, I couldn't play it for six weeks because of the bandages on my hands, but man, was that a good time or what?"

Ben Guiles, 33, nodded. "You're tellin' me," he said. Romanoke and Guiles were co-workers at a local computer consulting firm "in a previous life," Guiles said. The company laid them off in November of last year, but neither man has been able to find another job. They're now roommates.

So what happened to the coveted Playstations? "We sold them when our unemployment ran out," Romanoke said. "Our electricity was shut off a couple of months ago anyway, which would have made it extremely difficult to play video games."

The men told me that they are planning to camp out again this year at Best Buy. "They're going to have the first three seasons of Entourage on DVD for $9.99 each," Guiles said.

I pointed out that he wouldn't be able to watch them without electricity. Guiles laughed, and said, "How can you pass up that kind of bargain? I've never seen Entourage, but I hear it's pretty good."