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The Insane & Dangerous Adventures of Black Friday

The Insane & Dangerous Adventures of Black Friday, opinion, shopping, stores, retail, victoria secret, walmart, target, mall, new jersey, experience, uber

So, I want to add a precursor here by clarifying that I generally avoid the hell that is Black Friday like the plague it is. Every year, it seems that the death count goes up and up and up, and I am terrified that I’ll get hit by a car, stabbed, or trampled to death. And every year, it boggles my mind how people are willing to risk sudden death or serious injury, or cause sudden death or serious injury, just for a 60% off Xbox. My friend, who works at Walmart, told me that people were lining up around the block for their iPad sale, and when the supply ran out (supply and demand, y’all!), the queue started to riot. There were also ambulances and cop cars parked outside. And it wasn’t just the local Walmart. Everywhere, even the McDonald’s, boasted their own military grade bodyguards. Guess there is a reason it’s called Black Friday and not, say, Rainbow Funday.

But, terrified as I was of the prospect, for the purposes of this article, I went out on Black Friday for the first time in ever. Generally, I stay home after nailing planks of wood to my doors and windows and huddle in my room like a scared chihuahua, rocking back and forth and murmuring “It’ll be over soon! It’ll all be over soon!” like that extra in Titanic just as the ship is about to go down.

Needless to say, I had to wait a few days to write this article. I needed time to regroup.

IT STARTS

You know how some people say, “I woke up at the crack of dawn”? Naw. I woke up before the crack of dawn. Truly. It was still pitch black outside when I arose from my slumber. Whenever I know that I have to wake up early the next morning, for some reason, I just can’t fall asleep. If I’m lucky, I’ll get four solid hours. On Black Friday, I had two. After I showered and made good use of the toilet, I slugged down the stairs to fix myself an enormous mug of coffee.

At precisely dawn, my Uber car arrived, and me and my new buddy, Driver Mike, made the trek to the Freehold Raceway Mall–AKA, the nicest mall in my area. I climbed in the front seat so that I could talk to Driver Mike. He had, apparently, been awake all night serving his shift, mostly shepherding anxious shoppers like me to the shopstination (shop+destination=shopstination; you’re welcome, Webster) of their choice. Driver Mike joked that he had memorized every Walmart, Target, and shopping mall within a 50 mile radius. Or maybe it wasn’t a joke. He probably had memorized every Walmart, Target, and shopping mall within a 50 mile radius.

Freehold Raceway Mall is, normally, about twenty-five minutes away from my house. But this was the Friday of the Black Plague. The streets were lousy with early risers cursing each other off because they’re going to miss that Door Buster Sale, damnit!

Seventy-five minutes. That is how long we were stuck in traffic. Seventy-five minutes for a twenty-five minute ride. At 5:30 AM. In the suburbs. I have shockingly little patience, so sitting in traffic is torture for me. I also get car sick, and I had to fight the urge to spew burrito chunks all over Driver Mike.

But, eventually, blessedly, we arrived at the mall at about 6:45. And, of course, it was already mobbed. The mall had stayed open until after 1 AM that morning, closed for about two hours (presumably to let their workers decide if they wanted to hurl themselves off the roof), then reopened with a cavalry charge.

Good thing I had taken an Uber car. There was no way on God’s green earth that I would’ve found a parking spot. Even all the handicap spots were taken, and I had to wonder how many of those people actually needed a handicap spot.

THE MALL

Now, I am a short person, barely over five feet tall. A crowded room can easily consume my person entirely. So, here I am, this tiny little Keebler elf of a human, frantically pushing through a herd of wildehumans to even get beyond the front doors. It was that packed. The lobby boasted absolutely no available space. I felt like a farmer hacking through a maze of corn.

I was also alone because no one else I knew was willing to wake up before noon on the day after Thanksgiving. They were the smart ones. All of my friends do their holiday shopping on Cyber Monday, in order to avoid the stampede of humanoid persons on Black Hellday. I eventually managed to push past the Uggs-clad, deodorant-less mosh pit of humanity known as the lobby. I was going to do my damndest to complete all my holiday shopping today so that I could use Cyber Monday on what really matters–shoes.

First store I went into was Victoria’s Secret–because it was nearby, and my cousin likes their makeup. Not because I like to purchase negligee for my grandma or anything. The line, of course, was out the door, but I bravely pushed on ahead anyway. Inside, women and men alike were rummaging through the 50% off underwear bin as if it held the Holy Grail at the bottom of that large black plastic container.

Indiana Jones was looking in the wrong place, it seemed. The Holy Grail is really in a Victoria’s Secret in central Jersey.

I had to fight my way between two ridiculously tall ladies anxiously searching for that perfect wonderbra before managing to reach the makeup section. Teenagers and twenty-somethings were at the station trying on lipsticks, glosses, blushes, and eye shadows with a ferocity and rapidity that led me to believe that they only had a few minutes before the makeup in their hands would just…vanish. I ended up having a little bit of a tizzy with a 15 year old who desperately needed the last highlighter compact that I had picked up. She was a bit of a brat, so, even though I was just looking at the compact, I decided then and there to buy it.

I must have been in line to pay for a lot longer than I was actually browsing through the store.

Next store was Macy’s. I wanted to get the heck out of that mall as quickly as possible, so I decided that I would find something for as many family members as I could in the department store. As soon as I entered, I was bombarded with salesgirls who sprayed my unsuspecting self with every perfume under the sun. I still reek of a foul conglomeration of Ralph Lauren/Chanel No. 5/Chloe/Vera Wang Princess.

First up, my grandma. Now my grandma has pretty much everything, so I ended up purchasing one of those detailed compact mirrors and a lipstick case for her. For my mom, a Japanese tea set that was marked 45% off and a set of cutesy-wootsey oven mitts for my aunt. Lastly, I picked up a duffle bag for my cousin. Finito.

After an hour, I carried all my crap to the nearest register, the line of which snaked around the girls’ section. A good Samaritan saw me struggling with my soon-to-be purchases, so he, in a very un-Black-Fridayish show of compassion, offered to carry some of it. He promised that he would not run away with it all, and I was exhausted so I decided to believe him.

It was a good call. The guy just wanted to get the hell out of there, too. Comrades in arms.

After a half hour of waiting in the line at Macy’s, I hightailed (with my purchases in toll) to the Champs store to buy my dad a Yankee desk calendar. If you are little like I am, never go into a store that is populated with big, burly men on Black Friday. The likelihood that you will get crushed beneath a meaty paw is quite high. As it was, I was almost smooshed between two of these aforementioned big, burly men–one in a Giants jersey (sorry, bro) and the other in a Packers jersey (high five, fellow Cheesehead)–as I perused the desk calendars. One of them apologized. The other tried to get my number.

That done, I ventured to the nearest entertainment store to purchase something Breaking Bad related for my brother, who is borderline obsessed. The store was tiny, and it, like every other available space in the Freehold Raceway Mall, was packed, so I wanted to get in and get out as soon as humanly possible. I ended up buying the first Breaking Bad-ish thing I could find–another calendar, this one of the wall variety. I wanted to get him the complete series, but to do so, I’d have had to punch someone in the face, as they got their greedy hands on it before I could reach the kiosk. My brother will have to deal.

My best friend is a bunny enthusiast; she owns a lionheaded rabbit. So, in lieu of purchasing for her another rabbit, I ducked into JC Penny and snagged a pair of bunny slippers. Later, I also trudged back to that same blasted entertainment store and bought her a DVD of Stephen King’s IT. We used to share many laughs making fun of that movie as kids.

Now, shopping done, I determinedly made my way back to the lobby, frantically texting Driver Mike to pick me up as I went. I only hoped that he remembered I was deaf and couldn’t pick up the phone.

He had remembered, and, luckily, he’d been in town dropping someone else off at the nearby Barnes and Noble when I texted. I met him outside, after pushing through a throng of people trying desperately to get their kids in to see the mall Santa–why would you bring children to the Friday of Doom?!–and breathed a sigh of relief as the cool air hit my overheated skin. I had made it.

But I wasn’t done.

WALMART

When I got into the Uber car, Driver Mike asked me if I wanted to return home. I had completed all my shopping, so I should have agreed. But I quickly remembered this article. And I knew then that no Black Friday is truly complete without a trip to–hell aka Walmart. Believe me on Black Friday, it’s the same damn thing.

I sighed and regretfully told Driver Mike to drop me off at the Walmart in Old Bridge. Driver Mike looked at me. I looked at Driver Mike. We were both thinking the same thing in that moment. You are doomed. DOOMED!

Once again, Driver Mike dropped me off at the curb and laughingly told me to text him “if I survived”. At this point, my odds were about 50/50. I walked in as if I was entering a condemned building, one infested with vampires. I felt like Buffy, willing and ready to stake anyone who bared their teeth at me.

I fought my way to the back first to see my friend. She told me someone had come by asking for assistance clad in a Pepsi box in lieu of pants earlier. I was sad that I had missed it. Also she personally witnessed two women cat-fighting over a waffle iron. The police had to break them up. And neither of them got the waffle iron. Sad day.

I wasn’t going to purchase anything. But then my eyes zeroed in on a pair of red faux leather gloves that were totes adorbs, so I dashed across the congested aisle and grabbed the last pair before a hungry-looking teenager could do so.

For the next half hour, I meandered through the aisles, mentally recording what I found humans to be reduced to on this Black Friday. There were three people, two ladies and a man, in the Christmas section arguing with each other. Since I can’t hear, I didn’t know exactly what they were arguing about, but one of them kept waving around a plastic Santa Claus. Maybe he picked up the last one?

In addition, I saw a little boy throw a tantrum because his mother wasn’t finished shopping yet, and he wanted to go home. The kid went full out. Sprawled on the dirty floor kicking and screaming, his little face all red. His mom mostly ignored him in favor of some scented candles. There was even a man who kept frantically shoving Barbie-related merchandise in his cart, barely even looking at the labels. For his daughter? I hope he doesn’t have some sort of Mattel fetish. By the entertainment section, I spotted a woman was arguing until she was red in the face with a poor, unfortunate employee. I caught the words “The Sims” repeated over and over again. The store was likely out of the new version.

In line, a lady in front of me was openly sobbing. Later, my friend told me that those who didn’t get an iPad were often reduced to tears, so this particular person may have been one of those surplus. The girl at the register was an expert at ringing up and bagging everyone’s stuff. The line actually moved pretty quickly. Props, unnamed Walmart Checkout Person.

Driver Mike was idling by the curb before I could even text him. Driver Mike was a superhero. I made sure to leave him a large tip when he dropped me off at my house.

I had survived my first Black Friday experience. But at least it wasn’t that bad. I mean, I didn’t see anyone get killed or anything.

Maybe I will brave the elements and try another Black Friday article next year.

Maybe.

I need an aspirin.

 

 

[photo credit: andreasnilsson1976 via photopin cc]
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