Friday, November 26, 2010

Rethinking Black Friday

We're bundled up at three thirty a.m., hoping to get the right spot so that we can all buy the cheap laptops that are sold "while supplies last," which is the legal way of saying "bait and switch."

I silently curse the man three spaces up who brought a lawn chair and space heater.  Maybe he'll die of carbon monoxide poisoning.  Dark thoughts, I know, but it's what happens when you are curled around the side of the Best Buy building, shivering beside the dumpster that smells of death.

After an hour, we shift from being arch-enemies in a capitalist competition to being comrades in the communal cold.

"How was your Thanksgiving?" I ask a stranger.

"It was bad," she answered.  "My dad always gets drunk and tells obscene jokes to the kids and so my sisters end up yelling at him until everyone drives home angry.  And you?"

"Oh, it was good."  How do you possibly top her answer?

"Mine was lonely," the man next to me adds.  "My wife passed away two months ago and I just didn't feel like being around anyone but then I didn't want to be lonely, either.

He takes out his wallet and says, "There she is.  Or was I guess.  I'm still not used to that."

"I'm sorry," I say.

"It's okay.  It's not your fault."

It's silent for awhile before he says, "This is my first time doing the whole Black Friday thing."

"Kind of sounds like the name of a metal band, huh?"

"What do you normally do on the Friday after Thanksgiving?"

"Well, we would decorate for Christmas. But in the morning my wife would wake me up and we'd make love.  She said it was the best cure for a hangover.  So last night I just crashed on the couch.  I just didn't want to wake up in bed.  But I couldn't sleep.  So I thought I'd take a shot at getting a cheap computer or something."

"Makes sense."

"No, it doesn't make any sense.  I always thought women were supposed to shop to heal pain."

We stand in silence for another half an hour, neither of us feeling much like talking.  Both of us missing our wives.  I look at the sign again.  Best Buy.  I've got it all wrong.  If I really want to buy into what's best, I'll leave the line, hop in the car and cuddle up next to my wife.  

But I wait even longer and I lack the energy and overt selfishness to push away fellow patrons and snatch exactly what I want.  So, I leave early, lost in the dark fray of humanity pushing and shoving and yelling at one another.

I drive to QT, pick up my free donut and realize how easily I was duped.

I refuse to make the lowest price my bottom line.


  1. What a great perspective on what really matters. Thanks for sharing your story.