Black Friday, following the Thanksgiving Thursday, is a time of big bargains in the US. People wait for this day. But, the mad rush to literally grab the goods meant that ‘push’ came to a ‘shove’. There were clashes at times to outdo each other. People got up hours before the stores opened, braving the chill. With online shopping, things have changed a lot, these days. Anumita reports one such Black Friday, in a lighter vein, in this week’s regular column, exclusively for Different Truths.
All year long we wait for the faithful day. The alarm goes off at an ungodly hour of 3:00am and I pushed my heavy comforter off myself. I was on a mission. My mission was to secure the best deals. It was here, the great Black Friday. My husband groaned and reminded me of the things he needed from the stores, with his eyes still closed. I replied like a trooper, “Yes, sir.”
I brushed and got dressed hurriedly in layers and pulled my thick sweater on. I even thought if I needed to smear some kohl on my cheeks too, after all I was going to a war. The war of securing the greatest deals of the year was essentially what Black Friday was all about. Big cup coffee, my bubble coat, and snow boots on, I felt that I was ready to attack. The moment I opened the garage the cold air cut through me. I shook in my furred boots and reminded myself of the Wii which I was going to secure that day. Oh yes, I was on it!
Backing my van out of the driveway, I spied all the neighbor’s windows with their lights on. In my mind, I was saying, “I am going to beat you guys on getting the Wii* .” It started to snow and I cursed under my breath. But again what would a war be without added adversaries.
As I arrived at the parking lot I found many of my contenders already there. Why their clocks couldn’t run out of batteries, I thought. Or, maybe, these competitive people were camping here all night? That was crazy, but still possible. After all, that was the year the Wii made its grand debut.
I took my cart and stood as strategically as I could. I angled myself in a sure shot trajectory so that I could just run into the store when the doors opened. We eyed each other in the most hostile and casual way, trying to gauge who all were here for the grand Wii. I opened the flyer which had the sale products, with its fancy pictures and the big signs of the crazy low prices.
I had spent the previous evening with hours of research work. Yes, my kids and husband were there too, only to put in the things they wanted into my list of things to buy.
I had read through the advertisement papers of all the eight stores, meticulously comparing and contrasting every product on sale. I had told myself that I will be to scoring this year. Come rain, sleet or snow, I was going to be there when the doors open at 4:00am.
In front of the door of the store, I shifted from one foot to the other trying hard to keep my toes from getting frozen. I was sure I had lost my nose, they were frozen, and I touched it from time to time to check if icicles hung from them. I pulled my woolen hat closer and pulled on the strings of my hooded jacket. Boy, I was freezing. The temperature had dipped 18°F (-7.8ºC). The coffee in the thermal mug seemed to have turned to ice. Then I heard the distinct click of the door lock opening.
I dug my booted sole in the concrete and hung low on the cart handle, ready to zoom in like racers of the Daytona Prix. In my mind, I had the map of the store, where I would start and then which trail I have to take to go to the next most wanted thing on the list.
The door opened and I was moving, at least I thought I was moving. My contenders were blocking and steering in my path. I was not going to give up so easily. I summoned all the power invested in me by the universe; I maneuvered my shopping cart into the door ways.
Almost in, I looked around and found there was pandemonium all around me. Elbows knocking, pushing and shoving. Many of the contenders were being deflected to both sides of the isles. Feeling triumphant, I moved forwards but somehow missed one muscled arm of a body builder woman. Smack, right on my face. The glitter of stars swirled around me.
In the darkness the only thing that was real was Wii. Close one eye and run, run was the order from my retail spirit. There it was, in the middle of the lane, I saw the Wii. My one open eye scanned the pile. I pushed my cart and watched as hands grabbed at the boxes. One is mine, one is mine, was my mantra. I pushed the cart harder to reach my destination. I ran as if being chased by the ghost of Wii-less.
I stretched my arm and my fingers clasped on a box. I pulled and it moved then stopped. I tugged harder, and then saw the body builder woman grabbing at it. I thought, “Not this time sister.” Almost uttering “Jai Hanuman Ji” aloud, I pulled the box of Wii and hugged it close. One hand on my cart I drove it into the next isle. Still holding the precious Wii, as my baby to my bosom, I drove around isles making pit stops to grab and claim few more priced items.
Only an hour later, when I standing in a huge line at one of the many checkout counters, I relaxed the grip on the box of Wii. I looked at the box and felt an immense amount of pride at holding it. After paying, I loaded the items into the car and made the second attempt at another store for few more things.
After four grueling hours, totally exhausted, I returned home. My family was still sleeping. I dragged all the big packets into the family room and took off my boots. Made a cup of tea to sooth my aching back, and took the warm tea bag and touched it to my slightly blue eyes. Muttering under my breath I lay down on the couch and turned to look at the Wii in the bag. I felt like a winning warrior while I drifting off to sleep.
This incident was a few years ago when online shopping was not a big thing. Black Friday sales have changed now. I am not a guerilla warrior now, as I have turned into a savvy pajama-clad ninja with swift fingers working my way through the deals.
Happy holiday shopping!
*”Wii” is not an abbreviation. The fact that is sounds like the English word "We" and has two ‘i’ that look like two stick people standing together is intended to invoke a sense of togetherness. Also, it sounds like “Oui”, the French word for “yes”, and the Japanese character used for the “ii” sound in the name can be translated as “good”. Finally, it is a name whose pronunciation is natural to nearly every language native to the areas of the world that video game systems release in.
©Anumita Chatterjee Roy
Photos from the Internet.