My Black Friday shopping trip was absolutely perfect fodder for a blog post. Unfortunately, its taken me three days to recover enough from the experience to write about it coherently.
I have never been a Black Friday shopper. I believe the internet was invented for the sole purpose of relieving me of the need to ever set foot in the mall during Christmas Season. Its not that I don't love Christmas, quite the opposite. It is my favorite holiday. I absolutely LOOOOOVE Christmas. Its the time of year when everyone's house looks warm and inviting, when being "home" means hot coca and big fuzzy slippers and flannel PJ's, a fire in the hearth and soup on the stove. It means pretty lights everywhere and Christmas Trees, OH CHRISTMAS TREES! Being a parent has made Christmas even more meaningful. I can't get enough of watching my kids' faces light up when they open a pretty package and a toy they really, really wanted is found inside. I love going to church and singin my favorite Christmas hymns, I love the Christmas music on the radio and the specials on TV. In short, I am a Christmas Nutcase. I freely and openly admit it. Mock me if you must, I can take it.
Every year we get three or four copies of the Toys R Us Christmas catalog in the mail. The kids go through it for several days in a row, tell me they want everything in it. But there's always those one or two toys they just keep going back to, and I know that those are the toys they want.
Child A went even one better this year, all by herself she composed a letter to Santa, which I found on the end table after she'd gone to bed one evening. So I have my kids' Christmas lists. Aeryn wants a Polly Pocket Roller Coaster and a Barbie Camper and a real live puppy. So we know what she's NOT getting. Little Man wants a Rocky the Robot Truck, a Transformer's Airplane and Legos. And anything Lightning McQueen. And then Child A gave me the final toy clue one day at the store when she saw a big plastic zip up container full of Little Pet Shop animals and accessories. Her eyes went wide, her mouth made a great big oval shape, and all she could say, a little breathlessly, was "Oooooooooohhhhhhhh....." So noted by Santa.
For some crazy reason I decided I'd have a better chance of getting everything I wanted inside of my budget limitations if I shopped Black Friday. I don't know what exactly convinced me this would be the case, but I did start comparing ads, and then noted that Walmart (lets talk about the whole support/don't support Walmart argument later, I'm broke most of the time and they save me big on Groceries when I need it) had some pretty good prices on some of the toys I was looking for. So I asked the J if he would switch his Friday night for my Thursday, and made plans to be up and at Walmart by 5 AM so I could take advantage of REALLY BIG SAVINGS. In retrospect, this would have made sense if I'd been buying a big screen TV or a new PC or a Blu-Ray DVD player. In reality, I was buying a couple hundred dollars worth of toys. Regardless of reality, I had myself convinced that Black Friday shopping was THE WAY TO GO.
Morning after Thanksgiving arrives. Alarm goes off, I wake, dress, make coffee to go, etc, and climb into the car, leaving my garage in the rainy black night.
The first clue that this was a huge mistake should have been that the closest spot I could get to park was about seventeen bazillion miles from the store. I AM NOT KIDDING YOU. I parked my car on Pluto to go shopping at Walmart. There were young overweight women in fuzzy boots and pajamas RUNNING through the parking lot to the doors. Because, you know, they might SELL OUT of everything by 5:01. Well, maybe they were running because it was raining. But that really detracts from my outright dramatization so we'll just not go there.
Clue number two: There are five shopping carts left outside the store. FIVE. The other eleventy thousand are inside the store WITH ALL THE CRAZY PEOPLE. Of whom I am now one. I grab the only shopping cart not soaking wet from the rain, the automatic doors whisper open and I step inside. Into complete and utter chaos.
Have you ever dropped something on an anthill? Like a rock? Or a lit match? Just to watch the ants go crazy? Walmart on Black Friday, from my somewhat perverted recollection, is somewhat like a huge anthill whereupon some giant person has just dropped a kerosene torch. The minute you walk through the front doors, the frenzy is ON. Available aisle space has been reduced to half by pallets piled high with things like televisions, DVD players, pajamas, crisco, winter coats, gun safes, fishing poles, stuffed toys and perfume. The excessively large crowd mills about with no discernible lack of direction, but with rank determination. Don't mess with these people, they are SERIOUS. Don't even THINK about cutting in front of the guy in the overalls with the mullet, he'll TAKE YOU DOWN, MAN. And the store employees? The only fate I can think of that might be worse than spending it in the fires of hell would be to be eternally assigned to make sure the 48+ flat panel TV's do not go at a rate faster than ONE PER CUSTOMER. Sorry, ma'am, you may NOT have two.
Now, there are lots of extra employees on hand on this Black Friday. As near as I can determine, the purpose of the excess employees that retailers like Walmart hire to work on these kind of holiday shopping days (if they're not responsible for making sure no one gets two televisions) is to stand in the entrance to the side aisle and make certain that none of the shoppers escapes the Running-of-the-Bulls that happens in the aisle as everyone rushes to the section with the really cheap big screen TV's. And I am convinced of this because no matter how many times I said "Excuse me, could I get past you so I can get to the toy section without being trampled by the enormous crowd of people that are trying to run me over to get to that television there?" not a SINGLE ONE of the Walmart employees planted in the side aisle would make eye contact with me, much less MOVE THEIR ENORMOUS ASS OUT OF THE WAY. So, stuck in the milling crowd of people, I inched my way to the toy section (in the middle back of the store) one painful centimeter at a time. I say painful because I have at least six visible bruises from being bumped into by other people's shopping carts.
FINALLY I made it to the toy section without having been stabbed in the heart by the woman who thought I was out to get to the big pallet of TV's before her, or having torn any other shopper limb from limb, even when I thought they deserved it because they were block the WHOLE aisle with their cart looking at sponge-bob pajamas and didn't think they should move a little bit so I could get past. Jerks. Whatever. I made it to the toy section. And you know what? THEY DIDN'T EVEN HAVE THE BARBIE CAMPER. OR ROCKY THE ROBOT. Nope. I found everything else I wanted, including the sponge-bob pajamas I took from that other woman's shopping cart, loaded it up, and then threaded my way through the lingerie section to about halfway to the front of the store - because that's where the lines for the cash registers ENDED. Oh dear god.
I sat there for what seemed like forever, listening the the lady on the intercom paging for a store manager to come to the electronics section. And for a store manager to come to the personal care section. And for a store manager to come to the hardware section. And for the store manager to come to the electronics section again. I bet the crazy TV lady was going after someone else she thought was going to get her TV. After some endless time in the non-moving line, the coffee finally engaged and I woke up enough to notice that there were a few lines that were shorter in the middle of the store. The self-check out!! Yay for self-checkout! I "excuse me"'d and shoved and bumped and bullied my way over a few aisles and made it up to the shorter line at the self checkout. The people right in front of me only had some towels and the hippy couple in front of them with the dredlocks and the tie-dye shirts looked to only have a few measly electronics (wait, are hippies ALLOWED to have electronics? Can you even WEAR tie-dye if you use electronics? Or is that amish people?). I was so excited. I was going to be out of the store soon! I was ALMOST NEXT!
The hippy people checked out their items and things were going really well, or so I thought, until the little green light above the register started flashing red. And everyone sort of stood there a while, wondering what to do next, when finally a weasly little Walmart guy with a big clip-on key ring and funky Gene-Wilder hair came up and looked at the machine. He started pushing buttons on the screen. And pushed some more. And frowned. And pushed some more. Then he got another Wal-mart person, maybe his supervisor. And SHE pushed some buttons. And some more buttons. And then they both stood there and talked about maybe how HE pushed the wrong buttons or she was a crappy supervisor or maybe they were wondering why hippys even NEED electronics. About ten thousand hours later, they finally had some sort of A-HA moment, pushed some more onscreen buttons and the hippy people got to take their new electronics home. And I WAS NEXT!
I wish there were some big climactic event that took place so I could finish off this blog with a bang, but really, being NEXT was pretty much the most exciting thing. And then the other people were done, it was my turn, I checked out and went home and crawled back into bed. The end.