TGI Black Friday

November 29, 2010 —

As soon as the Thanksgiving festivities were concluded this past Thursday, I immediately rushed home to begin my preparations. Time was of the essence, and an opportunity awaited that comes not but once a year. Late that night, after scouring the internet to plan my course of attack, I fished out my winter wear and donned my coat and gloves. I then prepared what may or may not be my final meal and signed the latest codicil on my advance directive. With the last of my affairs in order, I drove off with callous resolve to witness the battlefield that is a shopping center on Black Friday. For those unfamiliar with the term, Black Friday is the day following thanksgiving which unofficially marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Retail entities across the country traditionally offer unparalleled deals on the most sought-after items ever on a child’s Christmas list.

Hundreds of brave souls are known to wait in the meandering queues outside of such shopping destinations in the hopes of being the first to snag the choicest prizes that lie within. This year, I would join their ranks once again. For those who triumph in the battle of wits and cunning that ensues, the reward can be hundreds of dollars in savings. For the less fortunate, the alternative is a wasted night’s sleep, or worse – a tragic or even fatal misadventure. But in my case, it is not an HD television or a brand new laptop that brings me to the arena year after year. No, I go seeking something far more ethereal and insubstantial.

As we waited in the incredulously-long line outside of Jordan Creek Mall, hundreds of eyes were all fixed upon the great clock tower which slowly crept towards midnight. Every manner of provision, from warm cocoa to directories on the best sales throughout the mall, were provided to us by the officials who would soon oversee the great circus that was to descend upon the massive shopping center. At last, the clock struck twelve, the confetti guns fired, and a great cheer arose from the crowd as the doors were flung open like the gates of the underworld. But at this moment, when my hour’s worth of waiting had paid off, I calmly and with great satisfaction took to a comfortable chair in the food court to enjoy my front row seat to the show that followed.

I take a certain morbid fascination in the beast that is the holiday shopper. What is it that drives them to wait in the longest lines, brave the harshest cold, and out-haggle the cleverest sales associates on this annual contest of wills? I sat in awe and wonder as I contemplated this question while the great ballet of pitiless struggle unfolded around me. Now, you might be asking such questions as: “Did you really brave the crowds and lines only for this rare insight in human psychology?” or “Were you secretly hoping for an opportunity to practice your medical skills?” or “Would you chose to experience it all again with full knowledge of the horrors that it entailed?” In which case, the answers (respectively) are “Almost certainly,” “Quite possibly,” and “Oh yes, in a heartbeat.”

Someday, I dream that my young nephew and I might enjoy this sight together one year. I dream that, in witnessing the horrors to which so many people willfully subject themselves, he looks up at me with earnest eyes and asks, “Uncle Nathan, this all seems so strange…isn’t there anyone who knows what Black Friday is all about?” “Well, my child,” I’ll respond, “Black Friday is when we celebrate the warrior within us all. It’s not just about saving hundreds on a new electronic gizmo. It’s not even about making a child happy on Christmas morning by snagging the last toy in the clearance bin. It’s about earning your savings by reaching deep inside of yourself to bring forth the most horrifying and animalistic fury that drives you to prevail where others have fallen. It’s about honoring the brave men and women who, year after year, put their estate in order and kiss their family goodbye as they venture forth to test their mettle once again. And that, young one, is the true meaning of Black Friday.”

P.S. – for those who want an idea of how crazy a shopping center can be on Black Friday, check out this only-slightly-exaggerated SNL sketch!