By the time Thanksgiving had ended last year I found myself faced with two situations. One, that I had spent the night at my Aunt's house without planing to do so. Two, that the family collectively asked me if I would do their Black Friday shopping for them. Granted, they didn't so much “ask” as much as “shove a list into my hands and write checks.” I had spend most of last Thanksgiving, and the night before it, at my Aunt’s house in Morristown. I returned home to do the shopping and to, hopefully, catch a moderate amount of sleep.
I was given the list at 6:45 in the evening. I left shortly after seven, and considering traffic, I made it home around 8:30. I’m not one who can just fall into bed and sleep, I have to wind down a bit, there’s the also the fact I have a touch of the family insomnia that kicks up from time to time. In this situation I also had to unpack and put away all the gear I took to my Aunt’s. I finally had everything done and put away by 9:15. In my pajamas, I flopped down on the couch in my living room. I had a wake up call of 3:30 in order to get to shop by five, yet I was still too amped up to simply go to bed, or even take one of the all natural sleep-aid tablets I keep in my nightstand.
I put a Fred Astaire record on and just enjoyed the music. When the record ended I decided to get into bed to see if I might trick myself into sleeping, it was around ten. Trying to force myself into sleep just made me angry and frustrated. I tossed and I turned, nothing was happening. It was 10:30. I got up and started to walk around my house, trying to distract my brain. I heard my phone go off, I walked back into my bedroom to check it. It was, we’ll call her “S.” “S” and I had been experiencing this on again/off again thing for a few months.
Both “S” and I hadn’t yet figured out what this thing was, nor had we defined it, we both were afraid to, if the truth is to be known. But on Thanksgiving night at 10:30 “S” just wanted to know how my Thanksgiving had been. We “chatted” over text message for a while, talking about our day, and my soon to be here Black Friday adventure. “S” was impressed that I was willing to go through with it, considering my struggles with social anxiety, and anxiety in general. “I’ll check in on you tomorrow, go get some sleep” was the last message “S” sent around what was now 11. I returned to bed, and this time I slept.
Thanks to the iPhone’s feature to make your wake up alarm any song on the phone, in what few hours passed, I found myself being wakened by the sounds of Marc Bolan singing “20th Century Boy.” I looked over at my phone, and by the time I actually stopped the alarm, it was 3:31. I walked into my bathroom and splashed cold water onto my face, which brought my senses around quite quickly. I took a shower, skipped shaving, and finished getting ready. Coffee in hand in a to go mug, I was out the door and in my car by 4:15.
I kept playing T. Rex in the car on the drive to the store. I arrived at the store at 4:30, their sale began at 5:00. The line dominated the shopping center. I parked as far away from the madness I could, and I lined up at the end of the line. I was wearing a thick overcoat, gloves, scarf, and a hat. I was cold, but I had on thick socks with my athletic shoes, and I had my EarPods in. I continued to enjoy the rest of the T.Rex album, then I switched over to 1960s Brazilian Jazz.
In what looked like a retail “Hunger Games” moment, I could barely make out the doors to the store opening to the excited sounds of many a person determined to win Christmas. I kept my EarPods in, but lowered the volume. This was almost irrelevant once I made my way inside the store, the sounds of excited throngs made it difficult to hear Nick Lowe singing. I grabbed a buggy, it was one of the last ones available, and as such was one of the “dead end” models left in the store. The buggy made a horrid scraping sound as I moved it along, with one wheel locked up solid.
The toy department was to be the last of my worries, it was the first stop for most. Along with electronics, and the combination of both being right next to each other made that section of the store the new site of WrestleMania 78. My first stop was the kitchenware department, my mother wanted to buy my aunt a stand mixer. I had to pass through the coffee section to get to the stand mixers. As I did so, an obstacle presented itself. Two people in the middle of the aisle were fighting over the newest model Keurig coffee maker.
Both sets of hands were on the box in a classic tug of war situation. I guess whomever was going to get the coffee maker must really, REALLY, love coffee. The situation reached its peak when the one of the left grabbed a bottle of vanilla syrup and used it to hit the head of the one on the right. The left was the victor, I backed out and went around the other aisle, instead of trying to navigate my bad cart over a body. Things were quiet by the stand mixers, they’re a popular item, but not one you commit bodily harm over.
I went from the kitchen area over to the clothing area, mostly calm, I was buying socks because at this stage in his life, my father likes getting socks for Christmas. Sporting goods followed, and I had almost everything on the list knocked off. All that was left was the electronics and toy department. It was still a war zone, perhaps with not as many battles as there had been. It was around 7:40 now, and “S” had just woke and sent me a message. “Are you alive?” it said, I responded to “S,” “I am, but I’m about to head into the war zone of toys and electronics. Pray for me.” “S,” being adorable and causing me to fall for her more, responded “This is a bug hunt, man! A bug hunt!” Saying a silent prayer, I moved closer and closer to the war zone.
I had wondered if it was worth it in the end, if any of it was worth it. I’m sure I might see it in the delight in the eyes of children at Christmas, but I had a hard time seeing it now. As I got right into the war zone things were mostly under control. The EMTs had been in the store and were taken the injured out as quickly as they could. The shelves had been ravaged, but you could still see where things were thanks to the dead eyes of stock men who clearly had danced this dance before.
I took 45 minutes to make my way through the electronics and toys department. I managed to grab most everything on the list, and off I went to stand in line forever at the check out. Passing the pantry section, I did spy a display of chocolate oranges, I grabbed a few and tossed them in, I deserved it. I played more music as I waited in line at the check out, it took an hour just to get close to being the next in line. By the time I was finished, buggy put away, and everything in my car, it was 9:30, and I was dead tired. I just wanted to go home and sleep, but “S” sent a message that said “Are you done? IHOP?” We met and ate, and it was a good time, but nothing really ever came of it. It was an off again, on again, that I’m still trying to figure out.
To use a frozen analogy I should just “let it go,” but I still think about her. The kids? Christmas was a roaring success and all were happy. Their eyes glowed bright on that Christmas morning, and I felt good about my accomplishments. Black Friday is an odd beast of a thing that is, sadly, part of the season. I don’t know how I feel about it, but I do know I’d rather not be out in the middle of it. If you plan on getting out in the middle of it, remember that it’s only silly plastic things, and that it’s not worth it to beat up another person over a Keurig.