With the chaos of today's economy, those traditions have been upset dramatically over the past three Thanksgivings (including yesterday) with the new un-holy tradition of "Black Friday", wherein I obsess over sales all day Thursday and ruin my sleep Thanksgiving night to join the few other sanity-challenged individuals looking to save "UP TO 80%!!" at 4:00 in the morning.
This year, the retail industry ramped it up a bit by announcing "Midnight Madness" had come. Some of the stores would be open at midnight. In truth, the idea of lining up outside the mall doors before Thanksgiving day has actually ended is really offensive to me. I thought of boycotting in protest for those staff who had to be there through the night whether they liked it or not. I hoped that their employers made it worth it for them. They do not. But I decided in favor anyway, figuring I would get in and out quickly and return to bed by 2:00 a.m. to dream of Sugar Plum Fairies and such. So at 11:45 I got in the car with Bob and headed to the mall. Once there, I saw that the mall had been transformed. It was now hell.
As we were getting off the freeway, we could see from the off ramp that shopping at midnight was much more appealing than at 4:00 - the parking lots looked entirely full. Bob and I thought about turing around at that point but Christine and Grace were already there having gone to see a late movie timed to get out as stores opened. We drove straight to the top level of the parking structure and became part of the masses that made their way through the doors. Before I could take anything in, I went straight to the sleep wear department of Macy's to buy the traditional Christmas Eve gift of pajamas. Score! I got a tremendous price. Further, there weren't that many people in the sleep wear department. It went quickly and orderly. I felt good about that. But riding down the escalator to the first floor I saw what was really happening. I began to hear the thump, thump, thumping of a bass blaring dancing rythyms and I saw, in addition to a much larger group of people my age, a staggering sea of teenagers dressed primarily in pajamas - some of them wearing blankets around themselves. Noted as well was that in spite of their nocturnal attire, makeup had been freshly applied and hair was done. This of course, because "Midnight Madness" provided a new excuse for a late-night-date-night to anyone old enough to have passed their driver's test. In total, the crowds rivaled any Cecil B. DeMille could cast. (And if you are old enough to know who Cecil B. De Mille is, you have no business being at "Midnight Madness".)
Immediately I felt my blood pressure rise. I forged ahead to my next destination watching boys and girls running around as though they had just discovered the mall for the very first time. Central to the inside portion of the mall was a DJ (a DJ?!?!?) blaring - at that moment - Cee Lo Green's "Forget You".
Ah yes - I could practically smell the chestnuts roasting on an open fire.
In front of Holisters were two barefoot young men, dressed only in board shorts, sporting six-packs for the sole purpose - apparently - of allowing giggling girls to take turns having photos taken with them using their own cell phones. Kind of like Santa. Only without the red suit. Or the beard. Or the candy cane. Or the Christmas.
Moving outside to the outdoor end of the mall, in addition to frosty weather we were treated to another DJ - this one blaring Michael Jackson' "Billie Jean"
Billie Jean is not my lover.
She's just a girl who says that I am the one.
But the kid is not my son.
Yes indeed. Missing only was the mistletoe.
And the checkout lines in the stores? Two hours. No kidding. No sale is worth that so we skipped the stores I had planned and went to the smaller stores in hopes of finding some sort of workable alternative. Bob and Grace left by 2:00 a.m. but Christine and I braved it for no other reason than that we were already there. But store after store offered nothing but looked-over summer items for deep discounts and only moderate sale prices on new merchandise. I could easily do as well online. Or on Wednesday.
We stopped for coffee - mostly because our feet needed a break. Even though we were in athletic shoes it started to feel as though we were walking on wooden balls. Finally to JC Penny at 4:00 where I buy all my husband's clothes because he treats expensive clothes no better than economy brands so I give up. And I got really good deals there. But no real sense of accomplishment.
And then - try to find a place to sit for a moment. Every chair and couch in the mall is taken by teenage pairings: girlfriends nestled in boyfriends' laps - sleeping. Ahhhhh, how sweetly and completely...annoying. I fought the impulse to slap them.
I did make a stop at "the scary store". "Hot Topic". I was looking for one item in particular and felt this was the likeliest place to have it. I was aware of making a conscience effort to look directly at the sales girl who had black and cobalt blue spiked hair, tattoos up both arms and neck, piercings in her ears, lips, tongue, nose, and eyebrows and act as if she looked as normal as Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Christine wanted to stop by "The Gap". She was a braver girl than I, and so I found a chair near Nordstrom (politely waiting until 10:00 a.m. to open) to wait for her. Many people had left by then but the music was still catering to the kids. Some rapper rapping lyrics I cannot understand. And thank God.
All around me, the ornamentation of Christmas - huge trees, boughs of holly, the window of "The Gap" reading - in big giant letters: "JOY". But there was none of that here. In fairness, one should never expect to find joy or Christmas at the mall on Black Friday. Or the mall at all. But I do remember being a young girl when the day after Thanksgiving was the first day you ever saw signs of the holidays. And the stores were brimming with festivity and excitement. And the music made your heart feel light and magical. Looking out the big glass windows at 5:45 a.m. seeing the first evidence of light - what I would have given to hear a bit of Bing Crosby dreaming of a White Christmas. For all the effort, you'd think they would have thrown this old dog a bone.
After all was said and done, I believe I can safely cross Black Friday off my list of things "to do". Forever. At 6:00 a.m. Christine and I decided to call it a nightmare and go home.