Monday, December 2, 2013

Black Friday comes to Thursday by PenguinScott

This year’s holiday internet battle cry apparently centers on Thanksgiving and workers not being able to spend it with family for having to do their job. Post after post from people I know deplores Americans to avoid shopping on Thanksgiving. “Think of the employees!,” they read, and, “They deserve to be with family like you do!” Is it only in America that we constantly have the need to project our desires onto everyone else? A few things came to mind around the 80th time seeing one of these posts.
                Anyone who gets a job in retail certainly doesn’t do so with the expectation that they will have the holidays off. I’ve worked in retail and I knew this going into the interview. I’ve worked the holidays as everyone in retail has. Sure, the first time I spent the holiday away from family was a bit tough. But I had something else working for me- pay.
                A lot of people enjoy working holidays for the holiday pay. I’m sure these days, in these hard times, these people depend on working Thanksgiving for the holiday pay that I hope they are making. Even if they only earn their normal rates of pay, let us not assume that everyone wants to be home not earning money.
                Then, there are those who don’t have family to spend the holiday with. Maybe they are college students too far from home or too broke to afford an airline ticket. Maybe it’s the crazy cat lady who has no one of the human kind to be with. Perhaps it’s someone who just can’t stand to be with family so bad that they shiver at the suggestion of staying home so they can be with those who judge, condemn, argue, smother or push other’s down in a competitive nature. I know I can only handle being in close proximity to my family for about 5 days, max (not for the reasons I just mentioned, in case they’re reading this). Some people can’t stand to be around family for 5 minutes.
                I hear the cry- stay home. Don’t go shopping. Avoid the malls. But for me, it’s about bucking the system; I’m such a rebel. I don’t want to shop on Black Friday mainly because it’s become expected to do so. I don’t want to shop on Black Friday because I’m saving money and I don’t have a lot to spend. I don’t want to shop on Black Friday because there really is very little that I need. I finished my holiday shopping weeks ago. Big screen TV for $100? I’ve already got one. DVD player for $20? Got one of those, as well. I think I’ll avoid the crowds and make a turkey sandwich, thank you. And I certainly don’t want to go shopping on Black Friday and join the fray of morons clamoring with fellow white trash royalty and ne’er-do-wells as they literally bust down doors and claw their way over their fallen to reach the stack of made in (insert foreign sweat shop country here) electronics, which will probably explode in 13 months, right after the warranty expires.
Penguin, post feast
  This year, I spent Thanksgiving with friends in Santa Rosa. These are good friends, and they know they are after hearing how I spent over 2 hours driving up from my home in Pacifica. Normally, that drive should take just over an hour and it’s no secret that I hate driving, especially in heavy traffic. But it seems either the city was being evacuated, or everyone and their dog was going to Northern California for the day…and apparently left about half an hour before I did! “Aren’t you people supposed to be at home cooking things?” I yelled from within my car (the Peng-U-V). There were as many people, or more,  walking on the Bay Bridge as any weekend during the summer! I was absolutely blown away. Maybe people were taking heed of the cries on line to spend the holiday with family; they just didn’t see the words, “at home.”
A line forms for a shop opening at midnight.
                The interesting thing about this Thanksgiving was that the daughter of our host had to go to work that evening. She worked at the mall, which opened at 8PM on Thanksgiving night. I’d never in my life thought I would see Black Friday come to Thursday evening! The question went around the group as we loosened our belts after the feast, seeming to knowingly save me for last, “Are we going to go to the mall tonight?” “Do you want to go to the mall and watch the chaos?” “Who wants to go to the mall?” The questions shot around the group like if asked enough, someone would win a prize. The prize was that when finally asked, I said, “Sure, let’s go!” After all, I didn’t want to be the only ‘no’ and I’m all for watching a train wreck.
                I did have some ground rules; I’d already posted that I would not be seen in a shopping mall on Thanksgiving and hoped to keep my reputation up to par. “No checking in, post no photos of me and if anyone ever asks, I was never here.” They were in total agreement, so off we marched to join the throngs of humanity at the mall.
A line for a bra sale outside Victoria's Secret

                The mall was much like a mall would be on any Saturday afternoon…but it was nearing midnight! I couldn’t believe all the people shopping this time of night on Thanksgiving. It was as if we have been doing this for years. Sleeping children were pushed in their strollers or sleepily clung to their parent’s hands while wearing cute PJs. My parents would never have brought me shopping at this time of night when I was 5! Groups of high school kids hung out like something from a teen movie and roamed in small packs. There were a few lines and mostly very well behaved people (we did see one fight nearly break out, but fisticuffs and weapons were not involved, although, I had my camera’s video function ready, just in case).

This boy kept watch over the family plunder.
   We laughed that we would make great hecklers as we observed the insane. Seeing the signs for “Doorbuster” deals, I made a comment about how it was amazing that, upon seeing some of the deals, the doors were actually still on their hinges! We commented on how some dressed, observing which stores remained closed and looked in wonder at the people eating in the food court, while our bellies were still so full.
Then, like flies, we went down. M found thermals normally difficult find, let alone for half price. C found sweaters that would make a great gift for family. But I held out. At least until I found the 800 thread count 100% Egyptian cotton sheets half off, followed by the cutest little shirts for my nephews. An $80 pillow for $25? Yes, please. Underwear for 25% off? I could use new underwear- I’ll bite.
Oh, no. What have I done?

            Dammit, my friends lured me to the mall under the pretense that I could go and make fun of those who bought into the frenzy of Black Friday on Thursday evening, and there I became one of them. In fact, after going back to C’s house, we returned to the mall for more, shopping until 2AM so C could buy a jewelry stand. You’re welcome analysts and retail giants. I’m happy to help your numbers kick off the season. I will sleep very well at night doing so- on my soft bed sheets and sensor gel pillow – that I found fifty percent off!  

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