I must confess something to you all.
At 11:30 on Thursday night, my wife and I got in line at a Best Buy with the intent to “bust doors” and join in the chaos that is Black Friday.
I must confess something to you all.At 11:30 on Thursday night, my wife and I got in line at a Best Buy with the intent to “bust doors” and join in the chaos that is Black Friday. I don’t tell you this lightly. I have long decried the nation-wide shopping spree as a case-study of America’s dark consumerist addiction. In my mind, taking so honest and wholesome a holiday as Thanksgiving and turning it into a team meal to prepare for the mall rush is nothing short of disgusting. Retailers should be ashamed of themselves for distracting us from our blessings with a bunch of fancy gadgets that none of us in any way need. That is, all retailers except Best Buy, because you can’t beat a 42-inch, 1080p, brand name LCD TV for $200. Are you kidding me? $200? That’s only, like, four tanks of gas in my car. That’s one month’s cell phone bill. I mean seriously, $200 shouldn’t even buy the remote for a modern TV, but somehow Best Buy was offering an entire functioning television for so low a price. So, as my wife and I had already been considering getting a new unit to replace our aging 70-pound, circa 1985 tele-tank, I decided to rethink my outright denial of Black Friday. After all, we were going to go out looking for a TV in December anyway, so why not see what the fuss was all about? At about two in the afternoon we passed through Wichita on our way to dinner in Derby with my family. We went out of our way to drive past a Best Buy store, just to see whether or not some lunatics were actually in line already. We knew they wouldn’t be, because surely things wouldn’t be that outrageous, even on Black Friday. We grossly miscalculated the magnitude of Black Friday. As we slowly coasted along the storefront we passed a group of tents clustered near the front door. Some 15 people stared back at us. They weren’t just going along with things to get great deals, and they certainly weren’t having some sort of urban-outdoors Thanksgiving feast. They were preparing for glory. Seeing the Viking hoard that were the true Doorbusters woke us up a little bit. We realized that we were talking about participating in Black Friday, where people are literally TRAMPLED TO DEATH by angry soccer moms who want to save five dollars on a yoga mat for their husbands that they will never, ever use. We, in our haste to get to Thanksgiving dinner, had forgotten our riot shields and helmets at home and were openly considering participating in Black Friday with no armor whatsoever. So it was less of a surprise that, when we rolled into the Best Buy parking lot “just to see how busy it was,” a line had formed extending from the front doors of Best Buy, past four other storefronts, around a corner, down a strip mall, around another corner, down to the street, along a sidewalk and into an apartment complex. The line was almost a quarter of a mile long. And so, naturally, we got in line. While waiting we made idle conversation with a college student from Bahrain who had been in America for five months and, like us, wanted to experience Black Friday first hand. He hadn’t come for any product in particular. In fact, he wasn’t even sure he wanted to buy anything. Perhaps most embarrassingly for America, he actually asked how often we had Black Fridays, as if we indulged in our sale-wars before every holiday. Eventually the doors opened and the masses quickly (but surprisingly carefully) poured into the store. The lined moved fast. Even with some 4,000 shoppers ahead of us in line, we actually allowed ourselves to dream — if only for a moment — that we might get our TV and get back out in less than, say, an hour. And as we got closer and closer to the entrance the anticipation grew more and more pronounced. A wild fever shined in everyone’s eyes. People started shaking. We all began talking more loudly, with a few whooping and shouting as the doors came into view. We were warriors, slowly marching forward as one solid mass of credit, ready to unleash our fury on discounted electronics in a surprise midnight attack. In an instant we were pressed out of the cold and into the calm of the store’s atrium. For a moment all was quiet, and a warm breeze blew down on our aching bodies from above. And then we stepped inside. The inside looked like some sort of twisted ant farm, with long lines of people carrying boxes toward one end of the building, steady side-streams leading to the different departments, and a few rogues zipping in and out of the crowd, apparently hot on the scent of some secret deal that no one else was privy to. My wife and I joined these rebels, shooting back to the televisions to snatch up the trophy to which we were entitled. And, of course, they were sold out. They had been sold out before we had stepped into the store. In all truth, they were probably sold out before the line had started moving at our distant position. I was crushed. We wound up fighting off the crowd to collect a few gifts for other family members before finding a more expensive TV with less features than the one we had wanted. We then stood in line with our prizes for two hours as we waited to check out. In our defense, we did not purchase the VCRs (seriously), the ABBA boxed sets or the baby-food purée-ers that the hypothetical child that does not exist except in theory but that, if we’re being honest, can’t live without that purée-er that lined the road to the registers. I don’t think I’ll participate in Black Friday next year.