Monday, November 24, 2014

Black Friday Memories

I've never gone shopping on Black Friday, the traditional day of crass commercialism and consumer spending right after Thanksgiving.  You could say this is another one of my quirks.  But eventually I think I might like to go to a store just to experience parking difficulties, the competitive nature of grabbing items that are both extremely popular and deeply-discounted, and long lines at the cash register to pay.  On the other hand, I've seen this experience depicted often enough in movies ("Christmas With the Cranks" is a holiday favorite, based on the book "Skipping Christmas").  So experiencing Black Friday is only an idea, one that won't come to fruition this year.

For the past ten years or so, I've been buying gifts at small, local shops, and buying works of art hand-crafted directly from local artists.  I've bought some items sold at fundraisers to help out veterans or homeless pets.  I like the dual benefit of fulfilling the gift-giving obligation while boosting the esteem of crafters by honoring their work with a purchase.

However, when I was a young adult, I was brainwashed into department store shopping.  I preferred to shop just a few days before Christmas, at stores that would stay open later at night.  Most folks didn't realize the stores would be open late -- most of my competing shoppers were of the "early bird gets the worm mentality."  My mentality was simply "Shop whenever most people didn't shop."

One Memorable Day, one day before Christmas, I asked my mom what she wanted for Christmas.  I had gotten home from work a bit early, so I thought I'd start my Christmas shopping.  She laughed.  But I insisted that I was serious.  So she told me, "You're never going to find it.  But I've been trying to find those Isotoner gloves in Cobalt Blue."  (They were plentiful in black, but I've never seen them in her preferred color.  Even today I don't see them online in this color.)

"Okay," I said with confidence, and I drove off to our nearest shopping mall, with its Macys, JC Penney, Lord and Taylor, and one other major cookie-cutter department store which probably is no longer in business.  It was less than a 15 minute drive.  I didn't bother to find a parking spot near the entrance -- I parked in the first spot I saw and walked briskly for another minute to reach the entrance.

I continued my brisk pace through the first department store, where I found the women's accessories (I knew where things were located in these stores, and, besides, the displays for women are usually placed near the entrances to entice women to enter.)

It was obvious they had nothing more than black, brown and red, so I dashed off to the next department store's women's section.  And there it was, a single pair of Isotoner Cobalt Blue gloves in, what I assumed, would be her size (because I forgot to ask).

Now the trick in paying for something at a department store is to know that there are cashiers located in all of the major departments.  And that the cashiers with the longest lines are in the women's, petite's, children's and to a lesser degree, men's clothing departments.  So to beat the long lines, I simply ferreted through the crowd over to the furniture department, paid quickly, and left.

I was home within three-quarters of an hour, presenting a look of utter despair in the hopes of surprising mom tomorrow.  But of course, since I came home after only 45 minutes, she knew I bought something, so she was already incredulous.  It was, in a way, a Christmas miracle.

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