Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday (With Apologies to the Prince of Denmark)

It's not called "Black" for nothing, this Friday. Enticed by promises of unbeatable prices, I ventured out before sunrise, through the rain and foggy darkness, to make my mark on the "Consumer Confidence" charts. (Watch for my percentage point on tomorrow's news.)

When I arrived at the massive chain store across town, the parking lot was already an oily sea of minivans and pickups, SUVs and sedans, abandoned shopping carts and discarded seasonal red paper coffee cups. I had a sinking sensation as I stepped uneasily across that sunless sea. My faith in American capitalism was failing faster than the real estate market in LA.

Nevertheless, I rode the swell through the automatic doors and waded with my squeaky cart through wave after crushing wave of bleary-eyed customers. I sloshed my way against the current toward the sale items that had lured me in. But when I saw the checkout lines stretching around the corner, down the aisle, and away toward the garden center, the sinking feeling left me; I had hit bottom. It's dark down there—Black even—despite all the fluorescent lights. With nowhere to go but up, I swam for fresh air, buoyed by my empty cart. No $3 pair of pajamas is worth drowning for.

Gasping, and dripping, I fell back into the driver's seat of my car and pondered a bit. Defeated. That's how I felt. The native hue of resolution was sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought. And doorbuster sales of great pith and moment with this regard their currents turned awry, and lost the name of action.

To shop, or not to shop? That was definitely the question. Whether 'twas nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous consumerism? Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by going home for coffee end them?

I considered Christmas. I considered the potential savings on gifts. From the great height of the big-box store parking lot on the hill, I considered the yawning abyss of the mall down below. I considered the coupons stacked in my wallet. I considered the hordes of people crowding the stores in search of a bargain. Last year on this day, somebody somewhere was trampled to death in a shopping stampede. Was it worth the risk? Shouldn't I rather bear those ills I had than fly to others I knew not of?

In the end, I resolved to take my life in my hands and descend to the Macy's parking lot. (Though this be madness, yet there is method in't.) The sun was beginning to rise, and the outlook appeared slightly less bleak as I plunged into the mall. I slid past crimson signs printed with swirly fonts saying "Yes" to Virginia. Perky clerks who'd been up since 4:00 A.M. wondered if I was "finding everything all right." Bing Crosby crooned somewhere over my head, trying to put me in the mood to spend.

It must have worked. Bing, unlike me, knows what he's doing when he's at the mall on Black Friday.

As I set sail for home through the fog, I brought with me bags full of stocking stuffers and craft projects and games and articles of clothing. I also brought back a much lighter purse and a much lighter head. (Ay, there's the rub.) It had taken me four hours to paddle through the mall. I stayed afloat, and yet, somehow, I still feel a bit soggy and defeated. I managed to avoid getting caught in the Black Friday undertow, but it may take me a few days to dry off and get the sand out of my hair.

I'm no thrill seeker. I wasn't altogether ready to test my strength against the storm surge of bargain shoppers. The only surfing I'm comfortable with is the kind I can do from my computer desk, where I can dip my toes in the kiddie pool version of Christmas shopping. Going out on Black Friday was a true test of nerve. Although I snagged some great deals, I really don't think I will attempt it again.

Well, not for another year, at least.

3 comments:

Kjerste said...

You're far braver than I! Amazon and E-bay are too convenient, and with a month long free subscription to that "prime" shipping deal, I can get anything I want on my doorstep in 24-48 hours without spending a penny on shipping. I'm loving it!

Lynn said...

Kjerste is soooo right on. Amazon's prime is PRIMO!! Call me devoid of Christmas spirit if you like, but I prefer warm slippers, a roaring fire, a cup of hot cocoa or glass of ruby red vino and my laptop -- definitely the "Easy" button and oh, by the way, will save you time for the never-ending quest to be "Martha." (Like you, Hannah, I sooo admire her creative endeavors, her enviable, impressive successes (somehow we never see the not so impressive failures), BUT I do find I am a much nicer person when I am NOT pursuing front page cover perfectionism!

Carissalayla said...

brave brave woman!

Total Pageviews