I am not normally one for re-visiting material I wrote in the dim and distant past, yet I am sometimes reminded of older material that makes me smile at a fondly remembered incident, and happens to be somewhat current at the same time.
Over Thanksgiving lunch, where my American family (who I love dearly) were at once giving thanks for what they had while plotting to gather even more the following day, I was reminded that I had recorded my first Black Friday, some eight years ago, and committed it to posterity.
There may be a few folk who enjoy the re-telling, so here goes ...
I am completely cured of the burning desire to experience, first-hand, the spectacle that is the opening of the post-Thanksgiving Sales, in the USA.
The day after Thanksgiving (4th Thursday in November), is called “Black Friday”, by the retailers and advertisers. The reason is simple; this is the day the retail stores get their annual sales figures back into the black, following disappointing summer sales. Quite why they are disappointing you would need to ask them, as it happens every year and you would think that, by now, the disappointment was more, er, expected!
Anyway … Thanksgiving is a wonderful occasion. It is, more-so even than Christmas, a day when families come together to give thanks. I wrote about this last year, and this year was every bit as delightful … as was the sweet potato casserole. This outpouring of goodwill appears to affect some Americans so much that they feel the need to atone the following day.
Thus Black Friday is also the day when the feral American descends on the stores, to mix with decent folk whose only crime is to be so well organised they had the stores, and relevant target purchases, written on “easy to use in the crush” index cards. Next year, she needs to get them laminated, and maybe she, Jennifer, won’t miss the biggest bargain she was after. I shall make her a special Banoffee Pie to commiserate, but I digress.
The TV and newspapers have been full of advertisments for about two weeks now, so I decided to go along to see what all the fuss was about. The mailbox has been full of ads too ….. I do hope the USPS charges very highly for stuffing our mailbox full of un-solicited, hardcopy spam, but I doubt it. Anything to make a buck, and who cares about the trees?
The teensiest fly in this ointment, is the minor detail of the sale starting at 5 am. There doesn’t seem to be much point arriving later than this, so 5 am it is … ugh! The other small issue is one of having no money …. Hehe …. Oh well! So 4.45 am sees me driving along Admiral, towards my son Thomas’ favourite store, the Walmart at Admiral and Memorial. I am mindful that the bars have not been closed long, so I drive carefully and am rewarded when the car behind me, which passes just after the Mingo traffic circle, is a Police Cruiser. My smug feeling of satisfaction changes abruptly to a modicum of piqued interest, as the cruiser turns into the Walmart parking lot in front of me. As I turn in I realise something deeply troubling is afoot ….. the danged parking lot is full. FULL I tell you, at five in the bloody morning!!!
So, I park somewhere in the next County, and begin the hike towards the store.
I cast the odd fearful glance around as I go. This is not the crime free neighbourhood we would like it to be, and elderly men on their own, in the dark, are a tad vulnerable. As it happens, I see a teen “Hoodie” by the front entrance, but it turns out he is just waiting for his Mum.
Did I tell you the parking lot was full?
I enter, and pick up a cart. Here I need to apologise to my friends and family back home. I find myself increasingly using American terms like “cart”. A cart is a shopping trolley, ok? At least I said “Mum” and not “Mom”. So I take my cart and head off left up past the toothpaste and feminine products, whose purpose I would rather not have described to me, thank you very much. As I walk up the aisle I can see a crowd gathered. At first the noise is subdued, kind of like a gentle background murmur, but it wasn’t to last. As I approach, the volume increases through swarm of angry bees an on to Boeing 747 at full throttle, with a hole in the exhaust (muffler).
A crowd of about a hundred women, and two guys, like me conducting a social experiment, are milling around a stack of Care Bears shrouded in plastic wrap and being guarded by a Walmart employee wielding a craft knife. I suspect the craft knife is to be used to remove the plastic wrap, but I caught her eye and decided not to put this theory to the test. It was 4.55 am, and the crowed was baying for a countdown. The craft knife girl was determined to hang on until five, but, knife or no knife, she was risking life and limb for a bunch of $5 soft toys. She did the math and cut the wrap.
Now I can tell you that I have a watch that knows what time it is to one second in ten million years. It was 4.58 am, so the sale started early!
Oh boy did it start. The shoppers (loose description, imagine a herd of wildebeest that just caught wind of a lion, and you’ll be close), quite literally “devoured” the Care Bears. Boxes of product went flying as those assembled displayed a level of assertiveness that was out of all proportion. I got three. Dunno where the girl with the craft knife went, I guess she was just trampled.
I did actually want one of these bears for Natalie, for Christmas. Then I figured that Natalie's cousin, Jordan, would love one too. The third was me being mean. I took three so that those fighting over soft toys would have one less to take, then later I could replace one on the, now empty, pallet to give a other shoppers a chance. I am a bit like that at times, and I giggled all the way around the store at the thought. Yeah, I know …. Bite me!
Onward, ever onward. The delight that was the scrum for the Care Bears was behind me, and I went off searching for that other “must have”. This was a radio-controlled 1/10th scale Hummer for Michael. These were being advertised for $20, and he would just adore one. Clearly the Care Bears were being bought, in the main, by women, who for some reason had turned from normally mild-mannered and pleasant, to Linda Blair for the morning. The men were buying the radio-controlled cars, consequently the neat stack was unruffled, and I could chose at leisure. I chose a big yellow one, and I can’t wait to see his face.
Between the Care Bears and the main toy department I could glance over to the Electronics section. OMIDOG !!! It was like New Orleans after the storm. Not the flood, we are in desperate need of rain, but the sight of about three hundred people, mainly young men, carrying TVs out of the store. I hope they paid for them, they really don’t want to run into the girl with the craft knife or that little old lady who sits by the door saying “goodbye”. She scares the crap out of me for some reason.
As I write this, I can smell smoke, and Mrs Twigg just appeared to tell me she is NOT burning dinner, but that some fat I spilled is burning off the hob …. My fault again, but I am relaxed about it because we are having Chocolate Malts shortly.
The parking lot was full, did I mention that?
I am going nowhere near the Electronics section. In any event, Jennifer has the Harry Potter movie we need on one of her cards, so that must be a given. I do have to skirt the general area though, to get to the milk and creamer required by Mrs Twigg, and required to make my life bearable when I get home. The crush down this aisle is horrendous. It’s about twenty five yards to the other side, but is moving very slowly. As I make my way down, I am being assaulted from behind by a cart. It’s not quite Trolley Rage, but annoying all the same. I turn to find the driver of the said cart banging in to me while looking left, right, anywhere but where she is going.
“Excuse me Madam”, I politely inquire, “But do you think you are likely to get out of here more quickly by repeatedly ramming your cart into my Achilles tendons?”. She was pissed (angry) I could tell, but she muttered sorry and suddenly decided there was somewhere off to the left she needed to be, and disappeared.
I was home by 5.30 am. Mrs Twigg had told me “I will be asleep when you get home. Please don’t be funny and make me laugh, it wakes me up”. But I had to tell her the parking lot was full (did I mentioned that?) … She promises to forgive me by New Year.
A little later that day, Mrs Twigg and I popped into Walmart in Okmulgee. The parking lot was civilised, and orderly with lots of space. The store was moderately busy, but no one banged into my ankles. On the other hand, there was not a single Care Bear to be seen!