Once again we find ourselves enmeshed in the Holiday Season, that very special time of year when we join with our loved ones in sharing centuries-old traditions such as trying to find a parking space at the mall. We traditionally do this in my family by driving around the parking lot until we see a shopper emerge from the mall, then we follow her, in very much the same spirit as the Three Wise Men, who 2,000 years ago followed a star, week after week, until it led them to a parking space.
For me, the Christmas season does not officially begin until I am standing at the end of an insanely long line before sunrise, listening to cheesy Christmas music being blasted through low-quality department-store speakers.
This is a tradition for me; a tradition that displays my utter lack of any human intelligence.
Once a year I get up at the crack of dawn and drive an hour out of town to the Black Friday sales only to come home several hours later grumpy, tired, smelly and hungry. Then I vow that I will never again go to the Black Friday sales.
So naturally, I assume the character of a walking contradiction and do the whole thing over again the following November.
Over the course of several years, I’ve conditioned myself—as Pavlov did his dogs—to not experience or desire any holiday affair until after I have made myself completely miserable in a crowd of rude, sloppily dressed people.
I, personally, was wearing a black pea coat and faded blue jeans: a look that screams nineteenth-century-European-Navy-sailor-turned-twenty-first-century-American-Eagle-model.
But it’s fascinating to observe how people let down their hair, so to speak, when out shopping at 4 a.m.
Apparently baggy sweatpants and bed head is an excuse for lack of manners. I tried to be polite, saying “excuse me” or letting others walking through an aisle first, for a while. But when all I got was grunts and vacant glares, I just decided to start cutting people off without a word.
It was sort of fun.
That’s the joy of a Black Friday crowd; I find that I can experience something completely different than normal societal rules, and everyone seems to be OK with it.
Last year for example, my girlfriend, Shelby, and I decided it would be “fun” to experience a Black Friday Wal-Mart crowd together.
Shelby had never been to a Black Friday event before, and I—being the seasoned Black Friday veteran I am—was going to show her the ropes.
We needed to pick up some Christmas decorations anyway, so we used that as an excuse to get up at an ungodly hour of the morning and drive to Salina.
At this point in the horror movie, the incredibly verbal audience member who always sits right behind me would be saying in a stage whisper, “Don’t do that. You’re so stupid. It’s not worth it! Why would anyone got to a Wal-Mart on Black Friday for a lousy set of ornaments? Hey honey, can I have more popcorn?”
Digression aside, you are no doubt beginning to sense the impending doom Shelby and I experienced.
We got to the Wal-Mart, fought our way to the back of the store where the Christmas merchandise was, got lost in the crowd, sought refuge in the Home Furnishings department and weren’t found until months later, our skeletons huddled in the fetal position, under the ceiling fan display.
Of course, I’m just kidding. What happened to us was much worse.
We ended up standing in line for over an hour to purchase a lousy box of small green Christmas tree ornaments. And to make matters worse, the local Wendy’s wasn’t open for breakfast by the time we got out!
But I must add that the nice ladies in front of us grabbed a package of watermelon-flavored gum from the impulse-buy rack and gave Shelby and me a piece.
Speaking of which, during this year’s Black Friday I created a hypothesis stating that impulse buys at all stores must at least double on this shopping day.
When one stands in line long enough, those candy bars begin to look pretty good.
Kohl’s has the right idea.
This was the first store I went to with my parents and Shelby for this year’s Black Friday. Their line literally wrapped all around the outside of the store, making virtually every piece of merchandise next to the aisle an impulse-buy object.
This is how my mom—after standing in line for a half hour—purchased a pair of pants she had not originally intended to buy.
After Kohl’s, we tested our luck at Wal-Mart, Target, the mall and Dick’s Sporting Goods, all of which we emerged from alive.
And then we began the timeless holiday tradition of trying to remember where the heck we parked the car.