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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Black Friday

Perhaps I've written about this before. Totally possible. But since the event happens every year, I see no reason why I should feel bad in repeating myself.

Black Friday is a day exploited, much like Sweetest Day and Mother's Day, by people who like making money. As we all know, the best way to make money in the US is to explain to other humans, domestic and foreign, why it is a good idea to lose money. If you can convince enough people that they don't need money, you can make a lot of money.

As Mr. Bernstein, from Citizen Kane, says: There's no trick to making a lot of money if all you want to do is make a lot of money. And there's no trick to making a lot of money if you can convince others to spend a lot of money.

So. Black Friday. It's an unofficial national holiday. A gross day where millions of people wake up earlier than necessary to fight over merchandise that none of them need for discounts that don't exist using money none of them have.

I did it once. I ventured into the beast of Black Friday.

It was a dark Black Friday, as it should be. It was 2 in the AM. Illogical for both me and the Sun to be up at that hour the day after a national holiday. And yet here I was (and here the Sun wasn't), awake and in line to enter a Target which promised great deals. I wasn't really there for great deals. I was there to buy Greg a video game.

This was a few years ago and Greg was working at a box store as I was shopping at one. He was getting a bonus to work where he was working, and I thought it would be nice to give him an extra bonus, so I ventured out in the early morning cold, and did my time in line, and eventually made it into the heated, luminescent Target world.

I had no goal, no determined gift for Greg, but I knew the store well enough to wander around. I went to the mid-store aisle featuring the bathroom items--towels, bath soaps, strange swirly things both mechanical and hand-cranked--and I wandered into the aisle for kitchen items. I did the  food aisles, and I did the clothing cloistures.  I skipped the toy aisles.

As I moved through the aisles of Target, I listened to Tom Waits music, pushed roughly into my ears through earbuds and a cord running into my pocket.

As 'Murder in the Red Barn' started up, I passed the garden section of Target, and turned down another illuminated aisle. Perhaps to best enjoy what happened next, and best recreate it, you should start listening to the song I was listening to. Please turn down your volume when you get to the part where I plucked my buds from my ears to process the threats coming from the Target employees.


Began? Cool.

Here's what I did: I wandered down a long aisle towards the games, and I began searching for one to buy Greg. I'd been in the very spot several times. I may have been singing aloud, "Pin it on a drifter," but who knows. What is certain is that, not long after I spotted a Silent Hill special edition, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around, and plucked the earbuds from my ears.


"Why are you here?" I was asked. The tapper was an employee of Target. She was bleary-eyed.

"Just looking." Honestly, I felt sorry for her. Neither she nor I needed to be where we were so early on a day that need not exist.

"You can't look," she replied. "You have to wait."

The bleary-eyed young Target employee gestured to a clump of people waiting behind a makeshift fence near the shoe aisles. All of the people were either staring at me with hatred, or staring at the Silent Hill games I was holding with envy.

"But I'm just browsing," I said. "I don't even know if I want this." I waved the Silent Hill package in her bleary-eyed face.

"You know you can't just browse."

Two things: I have absolute respect for those who do retail. And I absolutely hate arbitrary rules. So when I responded, "Yes, I can just browse," I knew I was being a dick. I also hoped I was underscoring to the bleary-eyed worker just how silly it was to insist I join the corralled herd of shoppers. The shoppers, after all, had a goal--they wanted a TV, or a specific game, or gaming system. I just wanted to browse.

But according to the Target employee, I could not just browse. I needed to wait.

"I've wandered all over the store," I said.

"Sir. You need to go over there." She pointed to the human Habitrail.

"I'm just looking."

"There are people here to buy."

"They probably won't buy what I look at."

And then there was a hand on my arm, and a security guard at my side, and a question: "Do you want to be arrested, or do you want to be escorted out?"

And the corralled people pressed against the makeshift fence, and some cried out for my arrest. I put down the Silent Hill collection--which I'd only picked up because it was the first game both G and I played together--and told the guard, "Let me go."

I'd like to say the bleary-eyed early-morning Target employee and I exchanged glances, but we didn't. What happened was I left, and walked over to a nearby GameStop, and stood in line for a bit to buy Greg a gesture of appreciation for his own time spent at work on Black Friday.

Again: Black Friday is a holiday created by those who have money, for those who think they need to spend money.

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