Happy Thanksgiving! Long-time readers may have seen this post last year, but we’ve picked up a lot of new faces since then, so I’m going to dig it out of the archive and dust it off.
Pop quiz: what’s the difference between these two scenarios?
Well, both involve a struggle for personal survival against hordes of inhumane, groaning glassy-eyed automatons trying to push, bite and claw their way to the object of their desire.
But sadly, it’s acceptable to bring shotguns to only one of them.
Black Friday almost perfectly encapsulates the schizophrenic nature of modern American society. We spend all day Thursday giving thanks for what we have with family and friends, with most celebrants traditionally consuming a foodstuff that contains high concentrations of an amino acid which induces drowsiness.
Everybody should be pretty chill going into the weekend, right?
Less than twenty-four hours later, we’re out en masse engaging in mortal combat for cheap, non-essential creature comfort goods. Gave thanks, now let’s get to gettin’ more. It’s probably a good thing turkey is the usual main course for Thanksgiving dinner, and the tryptophan is perhaps taking the edge off of people’s aggressions, or the consumer carnage would only be intensified.
Hmmm. It’s almost like some benevolent soul had the wherewithal to somehow warn our ancestors, in order to try to mitigate at least some of the mayhem . . .
I’ve only ever made one Black Friday excursion, a few years ago, with the noble intention of trying to snag a cheap laptop for my parents. I was proud that they decided they would finally join the rest of the 21st century and purchase a personal computer of some sort, so they could “get on the Internet,” but at the same time skeptical if the initial curiosity would give way to actual daily habit.
So I thought I’d hedge the bet that it would end up being just another gadget lying about the house, collecting dust — like the DVD player that I got them for Christmas a few years before that has since lain dormant in faux woodgrain cabinet under the TV, along with a handful of discs still in the shrinkwrap — by seeing if I could get them a cheap one on Black Friday.
After dutifully searching ads and selecting the right model at the right ridiculous, rock-bottom price, my significant other at the time and I set out in the wee hours of Black Friday to hit a more secluded, out-the-the-way Wal-Mart that she’d had some success bargain hunting in the Black Friday frenzy before, and she said the crowds would be nowhere near as bad as at the other outlets in the area.
(No joke, someone had been stabbed on Black Friday at Toys R Us in our vicinity the year prior, and I was a little concerned about that — if they were going to cut each other for a Tickle Me Elmo, what the hell would they do over a laptop?)
We thought, based on her prior experience, that three A.M. would be plenty of time to get in line for the five A.M. start of the proceedings . . . and that strategy was just plain laughable.
Not only was the designated area for electronics packed shoulder-to-shoulder, a furnace of human bodies that made the back third of the store a sweat-inducing sauna, but I discovered that they had at some point distributed ‘tickets’ for all the higher-priced items, all of which were already claimed.
These, I believe, were passed out at some point around Veteran’s Day, and shoppers had been milling about the TVs and video games ever since, subsisting on Fruit Roll Ups, Diet Faygo cola, and trail mix.
The mood was already ugly because most people, like myself, hadn’t realized that — they assumed that there might be some sort of lottery to determine who would get the chance to buy one, but not that the prizes had all already been claimed. Even the ones who did have the tip-off to the scheme and showed up in what they felt was plenty of time were sullen, because apparently the actual in-stock quantities of objects that had been so prominently displayed in thousands upon thousands of advertising flyers was fairly miniscule in comparison.
I think there might’ve only been 2.5 of the laptops I wanted actually on the premises, and there was still someone eager to claim the snapped off LCD screen of the half-a-one.
While I was disappointed, there were still plenty of other bargains to be had, most located in temporary displays that were still sealed and patrolled by store staff. (Not that ‘security’ stopped the early
vultures birds from trying to pick at the cardboard carcasses before the official start time of 5 A.M., of course, that would just be plain silly to assume people would be polite and follow instructions.)
So we hung around to claim our share of the bargain booty — might as well, since we were already there, right?
When the moment finally came and the blue-vested, bespectacled middle-aged retail equivalent of Gladiator‘s Maximus Decimus Meridius gave the signal to “unleash hell”, I was taken aback with the sheer frenzy. I’m pretty sure in some cases, like huge bins of bargain-priced videogames, people were indiscriminately just scooping up product with no idea of what they were actually shovelling into their carts.
Some poor kid who waited patiently all year long to get a copy of Batman: Arkham Asylum or Infamous for his PS3 probably tore into the suspiciously familiar looking packages a month later and ended up with a stack of Wii games like Food Network: Cook or Be Cooked or Charm Girls Club: Pajama Party.
And after looking at that thousand-yard stare in mom’s eyes as she went through PTSD Black Friday flashbacks in the warm glow of the Christmas tree, he probably just offered a feeble “thanks” and moved on to the next gift.
Now, I’m not a complete virgin when it comes to dealing with large throngs of very obsessive people. I’ve been to concerts, comic book conventions, stood in line at movie theatres opening day, gone out to midnight game launches. You would think with that crowd, who skewers younger and is not always renowned for their social graces, Black Friday crowds wouldn’t be that big of a deal, right?
Dead wrong. I don’t think there’s a fanboy out there that can match the fury that is a soccer mom hopped up on Red Bull and Starbucks hellbent to check every item off her list on Black Friday.
By quarter after five, I felt like this:
I haven’t been back out Black Friday since then. I like my gadgets and tech and bargains on entertainment media as much as the next nerd, but it’s not even remotely worth it to me.
Would I do it again? Well, I try to never say never, because I find that practically invites some cosmic force to slide you into a pawn position on a metaphysical chessboard, but let’s just say I’ll try to avoid it.
Even if it is excellent training for the zombie apocalypse.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, and if you’re headed out into the trenches Friday morning: good luck, stay safe, and give someone’s grandma a good shove for me.
(Seriously, she deserved it. That walker is just for sympathy, don’t fall for it. Besides, those $29 GPS units don’t grow on trees.)
Thanks for stopping by Public Domain!
I initially wanted to do something cool for Thanksgiving and write a serialized tale of Lovecraftian horror-comedy about a *very* ‘Black’ Friday, but various things conspired against me and I couldn’t complete it on time.
Definitely next year, and we’ll have something really special under the tree for Christmas. You’ll know it’s not from Santa because it’ll be wrapped in old, yellowing comics pages …
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