Reluctant Townie: Black Friday: Taking a walk on the wild side
Since you were wondering, my Black Friday went all right. Not as much food as my Brown Thursday (are we still determined to call it that?), and not as much Internet as my Cyber Monday, but overall it was pretty uneventful.
Which is to say, I don't celebrate Black Friday.
I think that as the middle class continues to get poorer, Black Friday will lose its cultural appeal. The problem with keeping people financially burdened for too long is that they will learn to live without the things they thought they could never live without. Cable television, for example. Pre-ripped designer clothing. Dental exams.
Two hundred years ago, the average human being didn't need a bottle of Justin Timberlake cologne to survive a harsh winter in the wilderness; for Christmas, they exchanged top hats, walking canes and bear traps. If you were naughty, Santa gave you syphilis.
Black Friday should be the name of a heavy metal band headlining some kid's basement, not a national holiday foisted upon us by Big Business.
And yet, this year, like so many years before, I saw men, women and children camped in tents outside of Toys R Us like political refugees seeking asylum from full-priced Lalaloopsies.
When Nov. 30 rolled around this year, there was no stirring in my pocketbook. I had no Taser in hand to defend my right to an $89 flat-screen television. I did have a corkscrew clenched in my punching fist, but I always walk around like that. It's part of my superhero costume. (The Vintner: Putting a Cork in Crime. Sample bon mot: "2013 was a good year ... for justice!")
America is learning that even the wildest Black Friday deal cannot compete with the everyday low price of stealing stuff from your roommate. Once you have been cleared of the notion that you must have nice, new things to be a productive member of society, you can open yourself up to the vast world of hand-me-downs. Of garage sales and questionably safe Craigslist ads. Of gently used underpants and Macklemore mix tapes.
Go ahead, furniture store, try to entice me with 40 percent off your Italian leather sectional after I have already liberated a three-cushion workhorse from the trash bin enclosure of my apartment complex. My choice is between 24 months of no-interest financing or 24 months of hoping the smell will go away.
Which one am I going to choose? Well, I can manage the smell without incurring interest (financial, romantic or otherwise). Plus, bed bugs help keep you warm in the winter by swarming over your body while you sleep. That's what I call a bonus.
But there is one thing I do like about Black Friday, the siren call that lures me out in spite of my misgivings, and that's the way every store in town turns into a 24-hour Wal-Mart.
As anyone who has stampeded day-after-Thanksgiving sales racks (or trampled day-after-Thanksgiving door greeters) can attest, there is something novel about walking around Best Buy at 2 in the morning when you know you should be at home, goofing off and forgetting that you put a Jack's pizza in the oven. It feels forbidden, a minor thrill.
Because I was awake anyway, I ended up at Kohl's. I usually avoid department stores like a junior high homecoming dance. But as fate would have it, my shoes had started to wear holes, and my wife suggested I use Black Friday to my advantage — while everybody else was kung-fu fighting for HD tablets and video game consoles, I could sneak in like SEAL Team 6 and nab some discount kicks.
So that's exactly what I did. I cannot overstate how little people seem to care about the shoe department at Kohl's on Black Friday. I felt like Oprah; I had the whole place to myself.
It had been something like 2-1/2 years since I had bought my last pair of shoes, which illustrates how rare shoe purchasing is in my adult life, so I wanted to take my time and find a pair of shoes I could live with. I don't have any strong opinions on what I like, but I do have strong reactions to what I dislike.
I am disappointed to say that I spent more than an hour in the shoe department — first narrowing my selections by price (priority: cheap), then by how orthopedic the shoes appeared in function (to rule out embarrassing granny sneakers) — until I had three or four finalists I felt could support my future lumberings.
One was a pair of Jordans. Must have been the a.m. delirium that gave me the confidence to think I could ever pull those off.
(Fun fact: In my last season playing park district youth basketball, I scored approximately two points. Total.)
Eventually, it came down to a pair of New Balance and a pair of Reeboks. Nothing sexy or dangerous about a pair of New Balance, but then Reebok traffics only marginally more in sex and danger. What I really cared about was arch support.
The New Balance had it in spades and came in a 12 wide. They had neon orange laces and trim, which draw a little more attention to my feet than I'd like ... but with any luck, they will fade with time.
Exhausted, I purchased them and drove home.
But as I passed the bucket of shoes in the kitchen, on my way to bed, I made a ghastly discovery:
My new pair of shoes were identical to my wife's.
It was a Black Friday, indeed.
Ryan Jackson never color coordinates with his loved ones on purpose, and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.