Black Friday and the madness of materialism

Published 6:10 pm Tuesday, November 29, 2011

To each his own, is what I say; however, if the American economic revival depended upon me getting up at 3 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving, to go stand in some line to buy a $9.99 “doo-flunkey” that’s probably worth $5, the country would be in deep trouble. But I seem to be in a minority.

According to CNN Money, 226 million Americans visited stores or shopped online between Thanksgiving Day and Sunday. Since there are almost 313 million of us, I put a pencil to those numbers and came up with a percentage of almost 70 that hit the stores during that four-day shopping window. I wonder if that high percentage included me picking up a loaf of bread at the local grocery.

In my early days, Black Friday would have referred to the agony of any dove that might have flown into the birdshot that was released from the end of my 20-gauge shotgun. We men and boys might have gotten up early to go dove shooting on the day after Thanksgiving, but could not have imagined getting up early to go to Walmart.

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The best reason for that, of course, is that there were no Walmarts. You have read correctly. I remember when there were no Walmarts to open early. I also remember when there were no malls! Christmas shopping was done in the downtown areas of our cities and towns and did not start, seriously, until about two weeks before Christmas. With men, you could say that serious Christmas shopping began about 1 in the afternoon on Christmas Eve.

The phenomenon of Black Friday began in Philadelphia and was not a positive term. I did not learn that from my history books, but simply looked it up on my super-duper computer, which could have been bought for 20 percent less than I paid a few months ago if it had been purchased this past Black Friday. Or, save another 10 percent by waiting until Cyber Monday.

In or around 1966, the police department of Philadelphia referred to the day after Thanksgiving as Black Friday because of the disruptive traffic in cars and people on the day after Turkey Day. I guess people around Philadelphia simply ate more turkey than other people and were walking or driving around in a tryptophanic daze.

Turkey is supposed to be high in tryptophan, an amino acid that is believed to cause drowsiness. It’s a myth that the Thanksgiving meal, high in turkey content, causes drowsiness in men. Drowsiness in men is a natural state once they have sat in a recliner for more than three minutes. Particularly if there is a football game on television interrupted by Black Friday advertisements every seven minutes. A three-hour nap is not unusual on Thanksgiving Day and they only miss the first quarter of the football game because of all the commercials.

Philadelphia’s police force is not the only thought for the beginning of Black Friday. Some think that the term is used as a marker for the first time in the year that a business moves from the red ink of loss to the black ink of profit.

These days, Black Friday has seemed to take on a life of its own and has even moved, in time, to interfere with Thanksgiving itself. If one thinks that our country has a problem with priorities, Black Friday is a good thermometer.

This year, the Target chain of stores hit a controversial note when they announced that they would open at midnight after Thanksgiving. I also get confused with midnight. Which day is midnight connected to? Doesn’t matter. Midnight is a time when beds are to be occupied because Santa knows when you are sleeping.

Instead, this year, Target proposed beginning their Black Friday sales orgy at midnight. The chain felt that its employees should not be able to enjoy a full day with family, so they called them in to work right after the first helping of leftovers which was the second meal of the day. Clock in at nine so we can open the doors at midnight.

I can’t believe that some employees would be so ungrateful at such a benevolent employer that they would begin a petition to ask the store to cease and desist on the Midnight Madness of Black Friday.

Target also was in the news for another Black Friday incident. One of their stores in West Virginia was in the midst of shopping madness when one fellow by the name of Walter Vance decided to rain on the parade by having a heart attack. According to witnesses, many simply stepped over the suffering Vance as they focused on their personal quest for a great deal. Vance later died at a local hospital.

In California, a lady who was headed for a crate of Xboxes, whatever that is, used a little pepper spray to clear the aisles. This happened at a Walmart on Thanksgiving Day after the store opened late in the evening to get an early start on Friday. Can pepper spray be used with salt?

We have clearly gone crazy here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. I can almost see the future. Thanksgiving will be shortened to a two-egg breakfast so that we all can beat a path on down to the Dollar General and get those great stocking stuffers. Yeah, that’s the real Christmas spirit!

Thanks, Larry, and thanks to all of you who read my columns and for your kind words. May God bless you tomorrow and always.