For the first time ever, I was coerced/forced/dragged to a post Thanksgiving shopping event. There is a clear cast of black Friday shopping characters. "The Planner" is strategic, cunning, and comes clutching competitors ads. They probably have a wing woman or two to grab and growl on their behalf.
"The Bloodthirsty One" will do whatever it takes, including throw themselves on a pile of crock pots while shouting "I'm buying all of these, nobody touch them!" at the top of their voice. They'll enter the store with three carts, not just to fill them, but also as personal crowd control.
"The Ninja" took something out of your hands and checked out before you knew it. Cart-less, ruthless, and back in the car within five minutes.
Those unfortunate enough to find themselves as "The Newbie" can't find a parking place, a cart, what they came for, and is at the end of every line. They skipped Thanksgiving dessert for this crap.
I went as "The Casual Observer." An annoyance to the other shoppers. The one who doesn't want or need anything, but will take in all this humanity with a glassy stare and slacked jaw.
We entered the 24 hour store quite calmly, no chance of stampeding or general craziness. My friend became so excited, giddy even. In fact, more excited than I've ever seen her, and I was there for the birth of her child.
There is a visceral, psychological force at work at these sales. The thrill of the hunt is a real, a primal instinct. Instead of hunting nutrition and sustenance, we are hunting the cheapest television or new laptop. In that sense, I can forgive the excitement as it's in our blood and even I can appreciate a deal.
There I was, standing in the middle of the snake pit feeling smugly above it all. Hanging in a nearby tree with binoculars and a notepad to observe the predators and their prey. Acting like the foreign reporter watching the bizarre coming of age ritual of a native people, when suddenly a panic washed over me. The panic of 'I need something'. I didn't know what I needed, but I was surrounded by 'deals' and surrounded by other seemingly reasonable people who were willingly waiting in line for these deals. Certainly, my subconscious said, I too, should be acquiring things. Think of the savings! Throw your perfectly good TV away! GPS, yes! Game console, blu-ray player, power wheels? Things! I raced toward the stack of uniformly stacked boxes, violently shoving an old lady to the ground. I strong-armed a kid and took their Elmo doll for no reason whatsoever. I began to climb and was truly on the mountaintop as I perched myself on my claim, high above the rabble. I taunted the uninitiated as I shook my reward above my head. "I don't even need this!"
But then I slapped myself. Somebody had to do it.
I went in wanting nothing but to witness a fist fight over something stupid, but after learning that in other stores people were actually killed, I mean KILLED, I was happy to have witnessed such a civilized bunch of shoppers. At the end of the day, I guess I'm glad I now have this uniquely American experience under my belt. I feel less blood thirsty and somewhat understanding of the whole thing. Though, it is ruining one of the top two American holidays, and for that, I am sorry.
pic stolen from http://www.websitegeographer.com (Not an endorsement, I just liked the carts)