My son asked me the other day why Black Friday is called Black Friday. Sounds kind of ominous, doesn't it? I explained that businesses are either in the red or in the black, red meaning they're sucking wind and black meaning they're operating at a profit. Therefore, Black Friday means that that special day can determine whether a business closes the books at the end of the year in the black or in the red. Sounds harmless, even kind of boring, doesn't it?
My husband and daughter and I went to the mall yesterday, on Black Friday. My editor had asked me earlier in the week whether I'd cover the day's happenings for the paper. With a lump in my throat and fear in the pit of my stomach, I agreed to do it. I spent the week psyching myself up for the harrowing experience. The day before Thanksgiving, he called me to say that he'd have a staff reporter cover the midnight shopping experience, so I wouldn't have to go on Friday, after all. Unfortunately, I had already mentioned the trip to my daughter. She's 18 and fearless. She was pumped; there was no backing out. My husband, the equivalent of a bodyguard on steroids with an attitude, accompanied us to the mall. I would now like to change my definition of what "Black Friday" really means.
The parking lot was an experience unto itself. Cars and SUVs cruised aimlessly up one aisle and down the next, circling like sharks waiting for an unsuspecting shopper to exit the mall. An elderly couple walked out of the mall and toward their car, and six or seven cars materialized out of nowhere, bumpers inches from their ankles, lights blaring and drivers watchful and on edge. The couple, apparently oblivious to their newfound fame, continued on toward their car. A feisty Hispanic woman in an Escalade rolled her window down and delivered the one-fingered salute to another driver who was approaching from the west – an obvious sneak attack. The Hispanic woman was talking on her cell phone in an animated manner, and I thought for a second, "How is she steering that thing?" While the Escalade and the other car stared each other down and jockeyed for position, a VW bug swerved in between both of them and nabbed the parking spot that the elderly couple had just vacated. This all happened in just a few brief seconds, but it was fascinating nonetheless.
Now all this sparring and gauntlet-throwing got my husband revved up, as testosterone-producers are known to do from time to time. As we were cruising the parking aisles in the rain, I could see him getting tensed up, ready to spring at the first opportunity to whatever…park, fight, spit, whatever presented the opportunity first. He slammed his monstrous pickup truck into reverse as he spotted a car backing out right beside us, and nearly ran over a very old man in a beige Ford Taurus who was behind us. The old man honked angrily, and my husband continued to back up. Honk, back, honk, back. I braced myself for that familiar crunching sound of a fender bender but thankfully, it never came. We finally parked with a good 2" on either side of the truck to spare, and squeezed out of the truck into the rain. My daughter and I scurried inside the mall, anxious to avoid being spotted by the angry old man.
Inside the mall, shoppers pushed and shoved. Mothers with strollers used their little babies kind of like snow plows, clearing a path before them with their little bundles of joy. One obnoxious woman had actually hauled a bright yellow shopping cart inside the mall. She was especially dangerous, as merchandise was piled so high in it that she couldn't see where she was going. Kids cried and screamed, husbands walked along in wife-induced shopping trances, obediently pushing, carrying and paying as they were told to do. Some women (and even a couple of men, as I recall) wore reindeer antlers with blinking Christmas lights entwined in them. One woman was wearing a Christmas sweater and elf shoes. And over the whole shebang, Christmas music jangled and blared in bone-jarring surround-sound. Ahhh Christmas.
"Going shopping on Black Friday" - Check.
Next item on the list: skydiving over shark-infested waters off the coast of Australia.
No problem. I survived Black Friday with only minor injuries. Incidentally, the "black" in Black Friday has nothing to do with economics. It has to do with evil, the darker side of human nature, the black nature of crazed holiday shoppers.