While I was home this past weekend I came across something truly terrifying. No, not lingering Halloween decorations or, God forbid, baby pictures.
I found a Black Friday ad.
Black Friday is a ritual I simply don’t understand. It doesn’t even sound like something I’d want to be part of. Historically, good things don’t have “black” in the title – the Black Plague, the Black Dahlia, Mussolini’s Blackshirts.
Even in everyday language, black suggests death, evil and illicit activity. Black widows, black cats, black sheep, black markets, blacklists – nobody wants to be one, on one or near one.
And yet people gleefully await Black Friday as if its very name doesn’t evoke terror.
Supposedly the term “Black Friday” was coined in the ‘70s by completely non-racist Philadelphia bus drivers who dealt with excessive pedestrian and vehicular traffic as a result of the sales.
For many years, stores opened at 6 a.m. Recently, though, some places have pushed that time back to 4 a.m., then from 4 a.m. to midnight. Now they’re opening as early as Thursday at 8 p.m. But it doesn’t matter when you show up. You’re taking your life in your hands regardless.
In 2008, a 34-year-old Wal-Mart employee from New York was trampled to death by shoppers. Two years later, a woman in Wisconsin was arrested outside a Toys ‘R Us after cutting in line and threatening to shoot anyone who objected. In Georgia, a Toys for Tots volunteer was stabbed by a shoplifter. On Black Friday 2011, a woman in a California Wal-Mart used pepper spray on at least 10 people while waiting for a crate of cheap Xboxes.
Even if those were isolated cases of unruly behavior, you’ll likely face an elbow to the eye and subfreezing temperatures at least. And what if you end up on Wal-Mart’s filthy floor, underfoot a group of crazed gamers? I’d imagine it feels like that scene in “The Lion King” where Mufasa gets run down by wildebeests.
I don’t know how die-hard Black Friday shoppers even get there. At 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving I’m sprawled out on a relative’s couch, nursing a food coma and watching Thanksgiving episodes of “Everybody Loves Raymond.” You’ll find me in pretty much the same position for the next 24 hours.
To be fair, I never enjoy shopping. It always leaves me feeling tired, broke and ugly. I’m also not a fan of shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, so I guess Black Friday is the worst day of the year for a girl like me.
Ironically, my birthday falls on Black Friday this year.
But let’s say you’re just a hardworking, mild-mannered person who’s strapped for cash and would love nothing more than to get your spouse/kid/friend that Wii they’ve wanted. To you I wish the best. I hope you’re able to snag what you’re looking for, and I sincerely hope you’re able to do it without getting knifed.