Come Thursday evening, when a majority of us are sprawled out in front of the boob tube while allowing the L-Tryptophan to lull us into a food coma of epic proportion, there will be a gathering. It will take place in parking lots and in front of closed entrances to giant retail store all across the country and long about the time you and I are waking for our wee small hours of the morning urination deposit, these stores will open to embark upon a madness of their own creation – BLACK FRIDAY.
I didn’t even know what this cavalcade of bargain shopping was until the first year I was living with my wife Charger Gal. I remember at 4:30 that morning I groggily took in the sight of Charger Gal putting on her shoes, the slightest jiggling of keys captured by my ears. I softly asked “What are you doing?” (Though I’m fairly certain I included the more common vernacular for intercourse in the middle of the question.) She kissed me and said she was off to do some Black Friday shopping and that she had always wanted to see what it was all about. She returned 3 hours later, looking as if she had been through the Battle of Hogwarts. (Ok fine, she didn’t leave in her Sunday best. No need to get snarky about it.) She regaled me with stories of what she had been through. I listened intently…and went right back to sleep. But as I returned to my peaceful slumber, I swore Black Friday was something I would never experience for myself.
And then two years ago, I did. (What do you want from me? The economy sucks and it was before I realized most Black Friday pricing can also be found online and the top notch deals are essentially limited to products with a quantity of 2.)
I left the house at 7AM, having been warned by Charger Gal that setting out for Black Friday at such time was a mistake before she requested that I please return home with Coffee Bean (Suck it Starbucks). The morning was foggy; an ominous sign. I pressed on, venturing forward to the local strip mall that has within its confines a multitude of retail outlets tailor made for consumer consumption. (I don’t know why I just turned into Joe Friday from Dragnet either. Make like Steve Winwood and roll with it.)
The cornerstone of this merchandising megalopolis is the trifecta of Toys R Us, Best Buy, and Walmart that occupies a 2 football field stretch along the Northwest end of the strip mall. I pull into the large parking area expecting to have to park a little further back than normal, but there’s no parking. At all. After 20 minutes of motoring up and down the aisles in desperate search for an open spot that is as likely to exist as a Jolie-Aniston sex tape, I remember a little known set of parking spaces behind the Walmart. I cross the distance like I’m racing Vin Diesel in The Fast And The Furious. Eureka, one open spot left. Let’s hit the stores.
I walk around the corner to approach the front of Walmart and am taken aback by the sea of men, women, and children roaming about the front of the store, none of whom are in the frame of mind to drop a verse of Tupac’s I Ain’t Mad At Cha. They curse humanity and deliver rousing damnations of their creator of choice. In other words, Black Friday is just like any other day at Walmart, and since I’m not a fan of Walmart any other day, I feel secure in my decision to make like U2 and walk on.
The pavement leading to Best Buy is littered with a plethora of Coke cans, beer bottles, plastic plates and cutlery, and to my astonishment, a turkey carcass. An actual turkey carcass. I shake my head, hold my breath, and make my way past the remains of the makeshift feast and into electronic heaven. I take in a store that long ago exceeded the fire code for number of patrons allowed and proceed to make like an NFL running back, darting through and around the customers as each 18 inches of daylight presents itself. My best O.J. (pre Bundy and Rockingham of course) turns out to be an exercise in futility, as the things I have come to purchase are all sold out. Defeated, I head toward the exit and pass two men engaged in a heated disagreement over who gets the last cell phone both covet like Gollum over his Precious. These guys probably spent the night sharing turkey and singing Imagine and now find themselves fast approaching fisticuffs. American consumerism in all its glory.
I walk outside with no desire to even attempt Toys R us and ready to wave the white flag, but I catch out of the corner of my eye the Petco that sits tucked in between the mega powers. It is open, near empty, and begging me to spoil my dog B Is Love. I waste no time in doing so and then remember there’s a Sports Chalet further down the strip mall. I drive over and parking is plentiful, the back pack Charger Gal wants is in stock and on sale, and I am rapidly starting to enjoy this whole Black Friday thing. I leave the strip mall behind as the fog begins to burn off and head to Office Max. They are out of some merchandise, but have what I’m looking for so life continues to be good.
My last stop is the Target near my home. You would think it would be as much of a mad house as the other big name stores I have passed or briefly entered, but things slow down after 8AM. I make my way around the store and study the faces of the employees who have been there since the start of the morning. They look like virgins who have been subjected to a Ron Jeremy film festival. My good friend Ponyboy has worked at Target for over 20 years and has this face for days after working a Black Friday. It leaves me scared straight, thanking my lucky stars that retail is not my way to earning a living.
So to quickly recap: Sport Chalet, Petco, and Office Max good. Walmart and Best Buy bad. I hope that helps those of you who make this trek to worship at the altar of the almighty deal. I have no plans to join you this year…but I do get the ads emailed to me in advance, just in case.
Like what you read? Come sign up to follow the blog.
Hit me up on twitter at mrc_truedat