Once a year, I brave the elements and risk my life for discounts on products I don't really need. Once a year, as I melt into a puddle of exhaustion following the aforementioned excursion, I question my sanity. What is it about Black Friday that is so irresistible to me? I honestly don't know. But even last year, when I was my infant’s only source of food and could only venture out for a few hours, I didn’t miss it. I couldn’t miss it. I had to go.
This year, the sales began earlier than ever before, which was a bit unsettling for a purist like me. I don't want to sound like an old geezer telling, "Back in my day" stories in a nursing home, but honestly, I don't like this stores-open-at-midnight garbage. Not cool. Luckily, the biggest ticket item I was after was a Sonicare toothbrush, so I didn't have to sacrifice family time on Thanksgiving day to sleep in a tent outside of Best Buy like some loonies. I did, however, leave my home at 9:15 on Thursday night and was chauffeured to the Goldsboro Target by one of my favorite people and shopping buddies, my sister-in-law, Lauren.
We immediately got in the line (which already reached the end of the building) and started to wait. And wait. And wait some more. It was cold. Luckily, even though my husband seemed to think it was going to be 65 degrees outside (this is the same man who once told me it never gets cold in North Carolina when I asked him what to pack for my sister-in-law's wedding in November) and that I wouldn't need a coat, I had decided not to trust his opinion on this issue. My bright red, puffy coat kept my upper half nice and toasty, and the fact that I paired it with a bright green scarf, orange sweatshirt, and blue toboggan made it an especially stellar fashion choice. Luckily, Lauren loved me enough to still stand next to me.
As the line at Target grew, so did our tobacco consumption. While I didn't puff a single cigarette, I can guarantee I inhaled a pack and a half of nicotine through second hand smoke. We were surrounded by smokers, none of whom seemed too concerned about where their smoke was blowing. At about 11:00, we started making a list of everything we would remember to bring next year:
1. Lawn chairs
2. Supplies for a hot cocoa and warm cookie stand, so we can make a killing (Seriously, why has no one maximized on this profit potential?!)
3. Hand warmers for our pockets
4. Long underwear
5. Longer socks
Just about the time that I thought I might die from a cigarette smoke induced headache, we heard the huge cheer signaling that the doors were being opened. We prepared to run. Target uses very organized methods on Black Friday, so we had received maps while waiting in line, and we knew exactly where our items were hiding. Lauren was going to charge for the GPS and portable DVD player on our list (luckily they were stashed in the same display in none other than the grocery department), while I hit the healthcare aisle in search of the electric toothbrush.
Target also only allows a certain number of customers to enter the store every fifteen seconds. This also helps in containing some of the chaos. Some, but not all. It never fails. Every Black Friday there are the same people, trying to sneak in line (like those of us who have frozen our tails off for the last gazillion hours are going to somehow magically not notice that they have pushed their toasty-from-the-well-heated-car behind in front of us). A lot of the time, these people get away with their mischief, but nothing makes me happier than seeing those individuals get what they deserve. It is like a little piece of justice in an unjust world. This year, a blonde middle-aged woman in a pink sweatshirt had the nerve to tell the security guard that, "There is no sign saying I have to wait in line," also adding that she would, "need to speak to your manager." No sign? Here's your sign, Pinky!
This is when my love for Black Friday really comes into play. Suddenly, it doesn't matter that no one in line has known each other longer than a few hours. We are suddenly comrades, brothers in arms. We have fought the good fight, and we're darned if we're going to let anybody reap the benefits of our hard work. The people in front of us were linking arms to barricade the woman's attempt to pass. The cigarette-puffing broad behind us was vocalizing the fact that her boots, "weren't made for walking, they were made for kicking *ss." My sister-in-law and I had no problem snitching to the employee at the entrance with a walkie-talkie by saying, "It's her! The one in the pink sweatshirt! Don't let her in!!!" Nothing made my heart happier than leaving the store, my desired purchases tucked neatly in my plastic bag, and seeing Pinky still being held in custody outside. Waiting her turn like everyone else.
After Target, we had a decision to make. Belk was giving out gift cards ranging from $5 to $1,000 to the first 250 customers, and their doors opened at 3 a.m. It was now only about fifteen minutes after midnight, so we thought we might have a shot at getting one, depending on the length of the line. We wanted to get some hot chocolate at the Starbucks inside Target, but decided not to chance it. What if there were already 248 people in line? The potential for that $1,000 shopping spree was too enticing. In hindsight, we should have gotten the hot chocolate.
The two lines at Belk looked pretty promising. We hopped in line behind a woman who had braved Walmart for a Power Wheel jeep for her daughter. As much as I love Black Friday, you could never pay me enough to go to a Wal-Mart for the occasion. Have you been to Wal-Mart on a regular shopping day? What about that experience would suggest that a $2 waffle iron is worth a trip there during a time that promises a battle to the death with thousands of other crazed customers? It was while in line at Belk that I learned why bums sleep on cardboard. Lauren had a piece in her car, and we plopped right down on that sucker. Sitting in line is so much better than standing in line (see item #1 on list of things to remember for next year).
About an hour into our wait outside of Belk, we started to realize that there were way too many rule-breakers at this location. The line in front of us wasn’t getting longer, but it was certainly getting thicker, as people came and joined their “friends” who had been saving them places in line. The thicker the line became, the thinner our dreams of getting a gift card. After a brief discussion, we decided to leave and go to a store that was already open, so we didn’t have to sit out and freeze for what was likely to be $5, if anything.
Maybe I’m getting old, but when we saw the line to checkout at Old Navy, we walked straight back to the car. Nothing in that store was worth waiting in that line. We decided to drive back to Kinston, pick up some McDonald’s, and try our luck at the Belk there, since we knew most people had probably gone out of town to do their Black Friday shopping. We figured we could then hit up the JC Penny at the mall there before going home.
We were devastated when the McDonald’s wasn’t open, but we met some delightful friends in the line outside of Belk. We got to hear about the wedding plans of one line buddy’s son, shared our cardboard and airline blanket with an elderly woman, and listened to the woman in front of us recount the pepper spray incident she had witnessed at Wal-Mart a few hours earlier. (Remember what I said about Wal-Mart? Heed my advice people: nothing there can possibly be worth it!) We both got gift cards, although neither of us was the lucky $1,000 winner. Lauren got $5 and I got $10.
We finished up at JC Penny a little before six, and after a Bojangle’s bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit, I was snuggled warm in my bed. I woke up three hours later. When I really stop to think about it, nothing I purchased was something I desperately needed. The sleep-deprived stupor I spent all of Friday and part of Saturday in was not a delightful experience. I still have to do some Christmas shopping. I can’t justify the six hours between midnight and daylight that I spent shopping. I don’t know why I did it. But I will tell you this, the time I spent crumpled in a tired heap on a dressing room floor, giggling with my sister-in-law, was pretty much priceless. There is just something about Black Friday that keeps me coming back year after year. Maybe it’s OK that I can’t quite decide why.