Aaron R. Davis
Black Friday really has become the most American holiday, because only in America would people gleefully create a storm of materialistic violence mere hours after giving thanks for what they already have. “But what’s really important is family … now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to put on my spiked climber’s boots in case I need to step on someone on the way to the discounted wafflemaker.”
Yes, Black Friday has come and gone. The day that is supposedly America’s busiest, most discount-friendly shopping day of the year, even though it’s generally neither. The one day of the year that it’s supposedly normal for people to line up for miles outside of department stores in the middle of the night, because apparently if they don’t the shelves at Target will be completely bare by 9 a.m. The day the news media, suffering from the slow holiday season news cycle, plays up what used to be a stereotype — that Black Friday is a day of shopping so competitive that things get violent — and thus creates a charged, violence-friendly atmosphere.
This is the kind of thing that some civilization is going to look back on a couple of hundred years from now and say: “Well, no wonder they wiped themselves out.” They’re going to look back at Thanksgiving and think it was the warm-up meal to some messed up version of the Hunger Games with slightly discounted flatscreen televisions.
Still, it’s easy for me to overlook this kind of ridiculousness. Who am I to do anything but roll my eyes when I see people lining up to be taken advantage of? The stereotype of the Black Friday shopper — typified by those horrendous Target commercials with the crazy woman in the red jogging suit, which says an awful lot about what Target thinks of its holiday shoppers, doesn’t it? — is pretty silly, and if people want to aspire to that, well, that’s between them, their victimized families and their eventual court-ordered psychiatrist.
Where I get bothered is in two places. First is in the way stores are opening earlier and earlier and earlier. Every year, they test the waters more and more to see how much Thanksgiving space they can encroach on. This year there were stores opening on the evening of Thanksgiving itself, which probably marks the beginning of the end of Thanksgiving as a holiday most people traditionally get off of work. (I’m sure there are movie theater and video store employees scoffing and saying “Hey, welcome to the club,” and having worked on Thanksgiving in both capacities, I do not blame them one scintilla.)
Can you imagine working at Walmart and coming in to find that your schedule includes evening shift hours on Thanksgiving? Doesn’t sound like fun to me. Then again, neither does working at Walmart, but in this economy, if you actually have a job, more power to you.
The second place where I get bothered is, of course, the violence.
Stampedes for $2 wafflemakers? Really, America? This is what we’ve come to now?
These people who get so crazy over deals and discounts and cheap gimmicks … yeah, they exist. We’ve all known people like this, somehow. Maybe our mother is friends with them, or maybe they’re related to us somehow, but we’ve all run across them. Those people who buy everything because they’re getting such a good deal. Never mind the fact that not spending money on these things at all will save you 100 percent on the list price; that concept is wholly foreign to these people. My mother is friends with a woman who was so thrilled when her sons moved away for college because she could fill up their rooms with appliances — many of which never even come out of the shopping bags — that she got incredible deals on. It’s like hunting, but for crazy people.
Yes, I said crazy people, because if you’re trampling another human being just to buy a $2 wafflemaker, there is something wrong with you.
Then there’s this insanity of the woman who fired pepper spray into a crowd of people just to get her hands on a cheap Xbox. Okay, I get how frustration can lead someone to think of casually hurting people — we all have those thoughts, admit it — but to actually do it takes some kind of uncanny leap from reality. It’s like the poor judgment equivalent of getting bitten by a radioactive spider, turning bad decisions into really dangerous ones. I know, I know, Fox News tells us that pepper spray is a food product (which happens to be banned for use in war by the Chemical Weapons Convention), but that thing is hotter than the hottest pepper known to man.
On the one hand, temporarily blinding someone and cutting off their ability to breathe just to get an Xbox is the most insane thing I’ve ever heard. On the other hand, it’s kind of the most American thing I’ve ever heard. We should knock down the Statue of Liberty at this point and just put up a statue of that UC Davis campus cop spraying pure capsaicin into the eyes of the less fortunate while standing on a pile of Xboxes.
(Also, as an aside, I think we just got an insight into the kind of home atmosphere that makes those screaming adolescent homophobes that thrive on Xbox Live.)
The final bit of bad news is that sales were up seven percent this Black Friday, so look for things to only get worse next year when people brave the biting cold to shop, spend, deal, save, shove, trample, maim and kill their way into proving how much more they love their families than you do. Me, I’ll be in my Black Friday bunker.
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org