Typically, Black Friday starts on Thanksgiving evening, after the turkey’s carved, the pie is eaten, and leftovers are heated up once more.
When it comes to the biggest shopping day of the year, my husband Brian and I are more like cultural-shoppers than hunters of steals and deals. We go for the people. Not once have we witnessed fistfights over the latest toy—sure, a disappointment—we also haven’t observed any particular kindnesses while out and about at two in the morning either, but why would we? It’s two in the morning!
This year, Brian and I went to Best Buy—the electronics store and more—and for the first time, we brought along our son. Nate had been begging to join us for years, and because we rarely buy anything on this day, we agreed to let him come.
As we cut through the parking lot, we saw cars double-parked outside the entrance. A parade of yellow hazard lights blinked in unison as teenaged stock boys heaved humongous televisions into open car trunks.
We waited in line to get inside the store and then waited in line to get to any section in the store. Within the hot belly of the 109-degree store was wall-to-wall people with dark under eye circles and turned-down mouths, obvious signs that Best Buy wasn’t the first store they’d been to, and it wouldn’t be their last.
I trailed Brian and Nate to the part of Best Buy that sells elephants—I know Best Buy doesn’t sell elephants, but to disguise what we ended up buying from my daughter, who sometimes reads my blog (at least scans it), we went looking for elephants, okay?
Anyway, Best Buy had great discounts on all elephants ranging in sizes from 42” up to 70” as well as on any accessory imaginable. The boys and I came across one measuring 65” from tail to trunk, but without a brand name. We grabbed it and found the track to the cash register.
A maze of overburdened aisles crammed floor to ceiling with merchandise, narrowed further by customers towing discounted finds was before us. I volunteered to wait as my boys continued their scavenger hunt for deals. My task was to weave our package down two aisles and make two tight turns while standing neck-to-neck with strangers doing the same thing, and do it all in my 3” thigh-high boots—because what else would one wear to Black Friday? Sneakers? Flats? Please!
The person in line ahead of me was a woman in her mid to late twenties and beige—she had beige hair, beige skin, wore beige colored glasses and clothes. Beige. While holding a stack of individual items, Beige offered to help me drag my elephant around the first corner.
The woman behind me was inspecting my huge rectangular box at my feet. She asked how big it was and how much it cost. She asked about any Samsung elephants and their cost. I didn’t know. A man came and stood next to her. She told him my elephant was only forty dollars more than the one they were holding. He examined mine and then took off in the direction I pointed.
My boys came and left with more elephant supplies, while both women, in front and behind, helped me lug the thing down the aisle. Both made comments about my boots.
After a while, a man reeking of Sci-fi-ness joined Beige. He had on a black t-shirt with Spock’s infamous hand sign flashing, live long and prosper, across the front. He had black hair and thick-framed glasses also in black.
I saw Brian drifting along the front of the line searching the faces of each person. I waved at him a few times before he noticed me.
“Are you waving at yourself in that television screen?” the man wearing the Spock t-shirt asked. I looked around.
“I saw you waving,” Cap’n Kirk said again. “Were you waving at yourself?”
“No. My medicine is working, now, so I don’t do that anymore,” I said. The Cap’n and Beige looked at me and then looked at each other and burst out laughing. Brian cut through the line and reached me.
“Oh!” Cap’n Kirk said, “You’re waving at him.”
I nodded. It was strange the couple laughed before they knew I was serious or not.
Brian started talking with the couple. They eyed the newest accessory he had for our elephant, one to make it louder, clearer, and in surround sound. The three of them talked about wires and connections and doodads to add. Cap’n Kirk noted our no-name purchase-to-be and told us to reconsider.
“My mom bought one like that, and she hates it. It constantly blanks out and takes forever to power on and is bad with recall.”
He could’ve been describing me, actually.
He said a sales associate had announced that a few Samsung elephants, ones that had been set-aside for customers with tickets to claim them, hadn’t been claimed. The Cap’n waved a salesman over and asked if there were any 65”-ers left.
After going back and forth with the salesman and Cap’n Kirk asking why one elephant was better than another, we decided to go ahead with the Samsung one. The salesman hauled ours away and moved our new one behind the counter to wait for us.
A woman wearing an Einstein Bagels uniform wandered down the aisle going in the opposite direction. Behind her, she dragged a wagon tipping over with boxes of bagels. She attempted to make her way to the back room of Best Buy. When Brian, Cap’n Kirk, and the man in line behind us noticed what she was doing, they all maneuvered heavy displays making a pathway for her. When she walked through, they moved everything back in place.
One by one the long line of people ahead of us disappeared. Beige and Cap’n Kirk wished us luck and a merry Christmas as we passed them to the next available cash register.
The experience wasn’t anything grand, nothing on the level of, say, the Gift of the Magi, but it was one that made humanity seem a little softer, a little safer, and a lot more willing to help each other, and I’m glad I witnessed it.