Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Black, and Blue, Friday

I avoid Black Friday like the plague. As far as I am concerned, you have to be two things I’m not in order to survive the biggest shopping day of the year: You need to be comfortable in crowds, and you must be naturally confrontational. I am neither.

A small-town, spring-season version of Black Friday taught me early on that I have no stomach for the big-sale mentality. An exclusive boutique named Ida’s, in my childhood home of Mansfield, La., hosted an annual President’s Day sales event—called Ida’s 2.22 Sale. Everything—and I mean everything—in the store was marked down to $2.22 for one day only.

This was the one sale that could get my mother, my two sisters and me into a chilly February lineup at 7:00 a.m. (In the ‘60s and ‘70s, 4 a.m. would have been unheard of.) We would wait with the other townspeople in front of Ida’s door, which, by the way, opened into a remodeled garage at the back of Ida Wiggin’s home. When she threw the door open, we rushed in with everyone else to fight for the bargains.

When I say fight, I mean it. I can remember spying a pair of expensive pants in just my size and reaching for them at precisely the same time as another lady. With her holding onto the pant legs, and the waist band firmly gripped by me, we began to pull. Because I was a teenager and was growing increasingly upset, my mother intervened. (I ended up with the pants; you don’t cross my mother, especially when shopping.)

Feb. 22, 1974 was my last big sales shopping event. I realized that day I simply am not willing to wait in line while it’s still dark outside. And I don’t have the stomach to fight over merchandise.

This past Saturday, I read both national and local accounts of Black Friday tragedies and mishaps. The tragedy, of course, occurred at Wal-Mart—and if a death doesn’t tell us that we’ve gone out of control as a shopping nation, nothing will. Locally, we had incidents of a knife being brandished and several unarmed assault charges filed, but fortunately no injuries or deaths resulted.

My family was safe at home on Friday, snug in our beds while others tussled over televisions and waved weapons over laptops. Later that morning, I checked in with my mother, who still lives in Louisiana, and she reported that she stayed home as well. Seems that, at age 83, she no longer has the stamina, or the stomach, for the fight.

—Katherine Field

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