It's a little long for a blog post. Sorry!
The darkest day of the year marks the beginning of the Christmas season. Black Friday. It sounds like something that should proceed a World War, and yet this is what is supposed to get us in the Christmas spirit. I’ve never partaken of this festivity, but this year my sister-in-law Amy insists and she promises me one thing: I would have an adventure like none other.
My adventure begins at four in the morning in air so cold my nostrils stick together when I inhale. She told me to dress warm, which I thought I had in my winter coat and jeans, but when I see she's wearing a furry bear skin and moosehide boots, I know I’m not prepared.
"When do they open?" I ask.
Amy turns to me, her smile big and teeth glowing in the dark (she works as a dental assistant and has apparently OD'd on teeth whitening bleach). "In about one hour. Isn't this great?"
I look around. There are about sixty of us standing in front of Best Buy, looking longingly into the warmth of the store. Every minute more people arrive. Some remain in their cars while others rush to be a part of the excitement.
"Maybe we should wait in the car?" I suggest.
"And miss this? Don't you feel it?"
"I can't feel anything. Am I still standing?"
Amy doesn’t answer. She’s craning her neck, trying to see the front of the store. "Did you see that?"
"I think someone's in there."
Just then the outside lights of the store flip on. Cries of joy burst through foggy breaths hovering just above our heads.
"Do you think they'll open the doors early?" I ask.
"No way. They wait to the last possible second."
I breathe into my hands. "Can't wait.
"I know, right?"
Surprisingly, time moves quickly. I'm distracted by the swarms of people flocking to the area like vultures to road kill. Already I've seen two fights. Both of them were because of people trying to butt in line. It didn't matter that one of them was a wife joining her husband. The crowd wouldn't stand for it. Decency left early, and I wished it had taken me with it.
"Don't worry, it gets better," Amy says, interpreting my disappointment for something else.
"I hope not," I mumble.
"Oh look!" she says. "It’s time!"
The crowd surges forward. Whether I want to or not, I’m going in.
"Stay close," Amy says over her shoulder.
I cling tightly to the back of her bear rug, but when we squish through the front doors, a man who looks like he could play linebacker for the Patriots forces his way between us. "Amy," I call, but she can't hear me.
I try to follow her, but in a short amount of time the store is filled shoulder to shoulder with people. I let the moving mass guide me until I'm standing in the corner near the ladies room.
I remain there for several minutes, staring in horror. People are shouting, swearing, and shoving. Faces don't exist in this place, only opposition. I imagine fire replacing the walls, and little devils with pitchforks jumping from one CD rack to another. They poke and paw people, but no one notices as their eyes are solely focused on price tags.
My nightmare pops when my cell phone vibrates within my pocket. I press the receiver to my ear. "Hello?"
"Where are you?" Amy shouts.
"By the ladies room. Where are you?"
"Trying to get a TV, but I need your help. Some dude's trying to take it from me. Hurry up and get over here!" The line goes dead.
I take a step towards the crowd. It seems to sense my arrival and swells in response. I jump up and down trying to locate my sister-in-law. I can't see her, but I do see where the TV's are.
I stop at the wall of people. "Excuse me, can I get by?” No one acknowledges me. I stick my hand in and try to wedge myself into the beast, but I'm quickly chewed up and spit back out. Two can play this game, I think. Head down, shoulder first, I push my way into the crowd. Eventually, I’m let in.
I keep pushing and am almost to the TV section when, without warning, a girl in front of me gets elbowed in the lip. Hard. Her face flings back, and, to me, it's in slow motion. Blood appears on her bottom limp and a crimson drop flies towards my face, and even though it barely grazes my check, I cry out as if I've been shot.
The girl looks at me. "What's your problem?" she says, her lip swelling.
I want the chance to answer, but she's already dived back into the tempestuous waves of people—a hero thinking only of a cost-saving victory.
Just then Amy finds me and yanks my arm forward. "Hurry! He's over here."
"I'm not sure what you think I can do," I begin, but when she stops in front of a kid who looks like he's ten, I freeze.
"Tell him, Rachel," Amy says.
"Tell him what?"
"That this TV is mine! I’ve had my eye on it for weeks.”
I look at the portly kid with spiky red hair and freckles. He’s sitting on the TV box and smiling. "Who got to it first?" I ask.
Amy steps forward. "I had my hand on it and was in the middle of calling over a clerk when Mr. Pumpkin-head came over and sat on it."
I turn to pumpkin-head. "Is this true?"
"I didn't see her touching it." He crosses his arms over his ‘Don’t Taze Me Bro’ t-shirt.
“Where’s your mom or dad?” I ask.
He shrugs. “Where’s Waldo?”
"Then how are you going to get this home?"
He wipes his nose with the back of his hand. "That's my problem."
"Can't you just let us have it? You'll rot your brain watching a TV this big."
"Won't yours rot?"
"I have four kids. It's already rotted." I pat him in the back. "Now be a good boy and go find yourself a video game. I hear the latest Call of Duty is out."
He slides away from me. "How much?"
"How much for what?"
"For me to get off this box?"
I glance at Amy and know she’s seeing one of the devil’s I saw earlier. I quickly step between her and the kid.
She lunges for him. "Oh you little hustler!" she says, trying to grab him, but I hold her back.
Pumpkin-head leans forward. "Fifty bucks. Then I'll move."
"I'm getting the manager," Amy says.
“Good luck!” the kid says, stopping her. “You’ll never find a manager in this mess, and if you do, I’ll just tell him that I got to it first, which I did, and that I’m waiting for my dad to come back with cash. How were you going to pay for it?”
Amy swallows. Pumpkin-head has her and she knows it. All she brought is a credit card that earns double points for every dollar spent. I know because that's all she talked about on the ride over here.
"Thirty," she says.
His eyes narrow. "Forty."
He pauses, than holds out his hand. "Done."
Amy reaches into her purse, and pulls out a twenty. She turns to me. "Do you have fifteen?"
She smiles sweetly.
"Fine, but you owe me." I reluctantly hand it over.
Almost an hour later we finally leave the store with the help of an employee who wheels the large TV box out to our car.
"Wasn't that awesome?" Amy says.
"Yeah, except for the part where I had to pay that kid. That took all the savings away.”
I stop moving. "You mean you were only going to save thirty-five bucks on this TV?"
"And all this,” I sweep my arm around, “is worth it to you?"
Amy grins, and I'm blinded by the morning sun reflecting off her teeth. “Didn’t you have fun?” she says.
I think about it, and her promise. "This is unlike any adventure I've ever been on before." If you consider going to hell an adventure.
"Huh? We're not finished. The mornings just begun."