Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving and the Insanity of Black Friday Shopping

And so, the week begins again.

Not that I can complain. After five days off from work, some quality time with friends and family and some rather tasty food, returning to work should seem fairly easy. Naturally it's not. I think time off makes us a little greedy and shows us a side of life that we often try to cram into the two weekend days. There's something rather delicious about not having to set an alarm, about eating whenever you like, about being able to pick up a book in the middle of the day and curl up with it. However, on the flipside, without work, those luxuries would no longer be luxuries, they'd be routine. So, in a way, work isn't so bad. Most of the time.

Yet, I did have a lovely holiday. For the first time in about four years, it was organized chaos instead of pure chaos. We had a few kid-wranglers to keep the little ones out of the kitchen, we had the table set and ready to go by the time the guests arrived and aside from my father's attempted coup of the kitchen, everything went well. My father is a good cook, as I have mentioned. However, he has terrible timing. This year, despite my mother's highly efficient pre-preparation and cooking schedule, my dad decided he would not only be Vice President In Charge of Roast Potatoes but that he'd also take over the cooking even though my mother was on top of it. Fortunately, my mother managed to triumph anyway. Never underestimate the power of turkey carving to distract a man.

Aside from the traditional eating part of Thanksgiving, I also participated in another newer tradition: Black Friday. Yes, I was one of the nutcases who decided to get up at 4 a.m. to go shopping. In my defense, my sister really wanted to go and since she had accompanied me last year at my request, I owed her a trip.

So, on Friday morning at 4 a.m., I crawled out of bed, defrosted my car, picked up my sister and went to Walmart. It's an adventure, I'll tell you. Our local Walmart was (fortunately) not one of those in which people went nuts and trampled security guards to death. I also didn't see any guns. Instead, it was just a store full of hungry-eyed people, ready to fight for the death for a $25 pre-lit Christmas tree or a $2 DVD.

If you've never been to Walmart on Black Friday at 5 a.m., you've missed out on an experience I can only describe as insane. We arrived at 4:55 a.m. There were no carts except ones with baby seats attached. We took one of those but managed to find a normal cart when we were inside. Inside Walmart at 4:56 a.m., it was a bizarre sight: Hundreds of shoppers were just standing there, their carts poised but mostly unmoving except for that wolfish look in their eyes. It was almost like an episode of Heroes in which Hiro had frozen time and people were standing their, frozen. We grabbed one of the last remaining spots on an aisle and waited. I was hoping someone would blow a whistle at 5 a.m. but, instead, an announcer calmly informed us it was now 5 a.m. and shopping could begin. And it began. And ended. It was complete chaos.

My sister and I aren't big on crowds but we do like a bargain. Thus, we have a few rules that we recite in the car as we drive to Walmart. They are:

1) Never Abandon the Cart
2) Always Stick Together
3) If one of us does have to leave to go snag a bargain, Rule #1 is still in effect. One of us must always stay with the cart and NOT MOVE from the spot in which we wait. Only when the other shopper shows up can we move again.
4)Always know what you want BEFORE 5 a.m. A list is vital.

You'd be surprised how effective these rules are. And how necessary. You wouldn't believe how many people actually try to steal from other shoppers' carts. It's really like a Darwinian experiment. If you manage to snag a much-coveted copy of The Goonies and someone else wants it, well, you better watch out 'cause if you turn your back, that movie is gone.

Another trick to a successful Black Friday shopping trip is to do some research. For example, this year, I wanted one of the coveted $25 pre-lit trees. Two days before, I had made a trip to Walmart and checked out the trees to make sure it was worth the fight. I also took note of where they were normally kept. On Black Friday, about five of these trees were placed out for the shoppers to fight over and, let me tell you, there was no fight, there was merely a metaphorical cloud of snoke in the air as we watched the shoppers attack the trees. Let's just say that by 5 a.m. and thirty seconds, those trees were gone.

But they really weren't. There were still hundreds of them but they hadn't been brought out into the aisles, they were still in the Christmas section. I grabbed one, making sure it was the same one as in the ad. It was. We were the lone renegades for a while until, finally, the Walmart staff finally started to let people know where they could get their tree. By this time, my sister and I had secured almost our entire list.

If you want a mental picture of what the experience is like, picture a Walmart. Then picture the normal aisles. In the middle of these aisles are organized stacks of all of the items that are on sale for Black Friday. Then take away the organized part, throw in hundreds of people, fighting to the death to get their Flat Screen High Definition TV and then picture them using that TV as a weapon to shove people out of the way. Yeah, that's about it.

Aside from a minor injury- my sister got rammed very hard on her shin by a Woman in Search of Hannah Montana items- we escaped unscathed with a cartload of our items. Since we were up, we decided to keep shopping and hit some of the other sales. We got the best bargains and it was also relatively fun. Best of all was a shiny new Target, recently opened, in which a strange aura of calm lay. It seems that not everyone knows this Target is there yet and we managed to steal some peaceful shopping without having to fight our way through.

You might think us crazy, you might think us strange but both my sister and I now have about 80% of our shopping done. We saved money. Best of all, we got to hang out together and have fun doing it. Our one mistake was thinking that going to the mall was a good idea. It rarely is, even when it's not Christmas. Aside from that misstep, all in all, we managed to make a day of insanity into a day of fun.

Now I'm back at work, the turkey leftovers are gone and with it almost all the traces of our Thanksgiving holiday. (Except for my sister and her Black Friday bruise. It's a war injury- be proud!) It's gently snowing outside and the big fluffy flakes are settling. I know I said that it was too early for Christmas but now that pumpkin season is over, I think it's ok to enjoy the season. I confess, I put my tree up yesterday and lay under the lights, Grey's Anatomy, style to appreciate the beauty and peace that only 200 mini multicoloured lights can provide.

And so, today, though I'm back at work, I have my tree waiting for me at home. I can turn on the lights and let the day slip away as I relax in the peace of my freshly-decorated apartment. It's the small things in life that make it good.

Happy Monday.

1 comment:

frydzz said...

Is it 100 lights...or 200 hundred lights....I'm confused. :-)