Monday, November 30, 2009

People of Black Friday

For the first time in many years I fell prey to the eye appealing and wallet pleasing advertisements of our retail giants.  Yes, I participated in what is known as "Black Friday".  Just the very term itself sounds ominious.  I was told by an associate that the term "Black Friday" refers to the fact that it is still dark outside when we begin our shopping; however Wikipedia (the all knowing source of everything) explains that "the term 'Black Friday' originated in Philadelphia in reference to the heavy traffic on that day. More recently, merchants and the media have used it instead to refer to the beginning of the period in which retailers go from being in the red (i.e., posting a loss on the books) to being in the black (i.e., turning a profit)."  Whatever its true meaning; Black Friday is indeed a day that will not soon be forgotten by any who is so brave as to venture into the king of all retail stores...Walmart. 

I along with my mother and sister must have experienced a temporary lapse of insanity.  Not only did we decide to go shopping at Walmart on Black Friday, we actually thought it a brilliant idea to show up as early as 2am to ensure our rights to all desired purchases.    We entered the store with the appearance of three women on a mission. I could almost hear the Charlie's Angel's theme song playing in my mind as we swept through the front doors armed with a map,strategy and steel plated debit cards.  Oh yes, we were a force to be reckoned with.    We marched our way through the store alternately finding the items we intended to buy and figuring out a way to sneak them into our carts before 5am.  Unfortunately, thanks to the well trained soldiers formerly known as Walmart associates we were forced to wait with all the other anxious (a.k.a. insane) shoppers.  So mom headed to her post (pillows, crock pots and towels), my sister staked claim on her territory (the pajamas) and I was the lucky one who got to experience the ticket procedure.

I decided that since we had arrived at our destination 3 hours before the sale began I might as well go wait for something that was really worth waiting for.  I got in line for the Samsung camcorder (originally $259 on sale for $149).  When I found my line of people I was pleasantly surprised to find that only four people were in front of me.  The first lady in line was the epiphany of a sheltered country girl (well to be honest she was a perfect picture of a what one might call a "redneck") She was sitting on the floor of Walmart in her P.J.'s and was wrapped in an old tattered blanket.   I never did answer my own question about why she would be wearing P.J.s.  She said she had been in line since 12am so I really don't understand the point of her pajamas.  I mean, it's almost as if she put them on with the sole purpose of wearing them to her overnight stakeout.  Anyway, she seemed a bit challenged (in more ways than one) but she was a very sweet lady.  Let's call her Hazel.

Next in line was a young girl probably around the age of 14 or 15, she seemed to have a bit of a hip-hop style going on.  Her hair was in braids and she wore a khaki colored jacket and a huge frown.  I don't' think I heard her speak at all.  Let's call her the silent one.

Then there was an elderly lady who was also very quiet as she slept most of the time.  Every once in a while she would open her eyes and make a comment about not letting anyone take her spot.  Let's call her "mama" since her 40 something year old son showed up the last hour and called her by this name several times.

Directly in front of me was a very patient and doting husband with two little boys snugged tightly in their beds at home.  His wife was on the other side of the store waiting for a T.V. and some sort of game system.  He was in our line waiting for one DS.  Did I mention that my line was combined with the DS wishers? I'm not sure why but I want to call him Tim.  I have no idea what his real name was but Tim seems to suit him so Tim it is. 

Behind me were three separate ladies, with no apparent previous connection but they all seemed to hit it off rather nicely as they chattered non-stop about husbands, kids, nieces, nephews, shop lifters, Christmas trees, doctors, taxes, donuts and the President.  The ladies.

So the eight of us; Hazel, the silent one, mama, Tim, myself and the ladies all became fast friends.  It is something I have never before experienced but somehow in that long wait to spend our money we formed a sort of unexplainable bond.  I had a sense that if I needed someone to back me up in the crazy mass of people I would soon be encountering; any of the these people would be willing to provide that.  We swapped stories, shared buckets as seats, and held each others places in line (before the bathroom passes began).  It was enthralling to see how quickly friendships could form.  Although I don't know any of their real names I do indeed feel as if these people of Black Friday could be added to my list of short-term friends.

When 5 am finally rolled around Hazel excitedly pulled out her check to hand over to the clerk.  You could tell she was anxious to move on with this purchase so that she might partake in some of the many other fantastic deals being offered.  I was so mesmerized by the sheer volume of movement in front of me that I almost missed what happened with Hazel.  When 5am struck the shoppers of Walmart turned into a raging mob.  I was reminded of the movie "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" and the crazy frenzy that everyone experienced when searching for the Golden Ticket.  Everyone in that store was on a mission to find their own golden ticket. And Hazel's check was being declined.

After waiting five long hours, sitting on the floor, and refusing to even go to the bathroom Hazel's check was declined.  She didn't get her DS's.  They told her they couldnt' hold them for her and sent her on her way.  She went quietly but just before she turned I saw the sheen of tears in her eyes.  Mortification.  I am sure she was completely mortified and more than that...frustrated.  I felt so bad for her (my new friend).  I wanted to help so bad but knew I didn't have the money it would take to do so.  She walked away and disappeared into the sea of shoppers.  Poor Hazel.

I bought my camcorder and then quickly located my mom.  We made a new plan of action as I left my buggy behind and headed down the toy aisle "cartless".  This was of course, a much smarter strategy since the aisles were now completely jammed by all the carts that had gridlocked themselves into place.    I piled my arms as high as I possibly could and then rushed to meet mom at the jeans.  We did it; mom and I. We got everything we were in charge we just needed to find my sister to let her know.  At just the precise time she came whipping around the corner and yelled my name.  She never slowed down as she rushed towards us, cheeks flushed, hair frazzled, and wide eyed.  "I got it" she said "I was a crazy person" and I couldn't' believe my eyes when I looked in her buggy to see that she did indeed have EVERYTHING, not just her list but all of ours.  She had accomplished what seemed like the impossible in about 10 minutes.  She is amazing.  So we got everything we wanted with the exception of a few items that were gone by 5:03am.

I think I will remember the people of Black Friday for quite some time.  I am not sure yet if I think it was all worth it. Three days later I am still exhausted from staying awake for more than 24 hours but I already can't wait to try it again next year!