If you had asked me just a few short weeks before, I would’ve said you were crazy. Yet there I was, standing in line alongside other frenzied shoppers, looking for the deal of a lifetime on Black Friday.
When I told my best friend Tabitha that I was thinking about doing this crazy thing, she screamed. Then the scream turned into a shriek, which morphed into a squeal that just kept getting higher and higher until I couldn’t make out any actual words. My dog Max growled, and gave her the same look he gives the neighbor’s cat every time it runs through our yard.
“Let’s go, Amy,” she said. “Tons of people do it every year, why not us?”
“Why not,” I agreed. Which wasn’t much of an endorsement, but I wasn’t exactly proud of sleeping outside of a Dillard’s on one of the coldest nights of the year.
My husband, Shaw, was even less impressed by the idea.
“Amy, this isn’t like you,” he said. “I mean, standing in line like some lunatic to save a few bucks, it’s … it’s just crazy.” Then he shook his head in a mocking sort of way, skillfully pairing it with this know-it-all smirk that made me want to punch him in the face.
“It’s just one time,” I told him, but looking back now, maybe Shaw was right, maybe I was acting like a lunatic.
Normally I’m a sensible gal, I think things through, make relatively good decisions —except for that unfortunate haircut in 2008. But this idea to do something I had previously equated to hot pokers being plunged into my eyes, put all those claims of being sensible into question, making it hard to reconcile the fact that I agreed, without any coercion whatsoever, to sleep outside in sixteen-degree weather with my crazy best friend and a whole slew of other nutburgers who appeared to do this kind of thing on a regular basis.
It’s amazing how clear your thoughts become when you’re in line behind a guy who has been farting for at least forty-five minutes, and in front of two women who appear to be cooking rotten flesh, from the smell of things wafting from their portable grill.
What else could this be but a temporary loss of sanity?
We arrived at the Dillard’s on Paulson around 6 pm. Tabitha was more excited than usual because she had come to get the latest “shoot the guy in the head” video game for that little sociopath son of hers, and the mood was quite celebratory; people were partying like it was a freakin’ New Year’s Eve party.
Things finally died down around 2 am, and Tabitha shook me awake at 4, after a frigid and uneasy night of sleep. I was as stiff as a board, and even though I kept my winter boots on, my feet felt like blocks of ice. The rest of the lunatics were rising in anticipation of the unmistakable click of the lock, signifying that the doors would soon be opened.
Tabitha took my hand and leaned in. “We stay together, no matter what,” she said, which threw me for a loop. Why wouldn’t we stay together?
Then I saw what she meant.
As the doors opened, the whole crowd began a collective push toward the entrance, almost knocking us off our feet. Those relatively nice people from the night before transformed into frothing beasts who began yelling and cursing at each other, all while demanding the line move faster.
Once inside, that’s when things really got hairy. Tabitha and I were pushed and pulled in every imaginable direction, and we were separated almost immediately after entering the store. I tumbled over a stack of boxes, and was kicked aside by people grabbing for $20 steamers that were now 25 percent off.
I couldn’t believe it when I saw a woman with a small child. The girl couldn’t have been more than five years old. Her mother had placed one of those valuable steamers in her tiny little hands, and I watched in horror as another woman snatched it from the little girl. This resulted in the mother putting the other woman in a headlock, while her child stood, screaming at the top of her lungs.
I crawled away and looked for a clearing where I could stand and search for Tabitha, but an old women told me to move my fat ass so she could grab a handful of designer sunglasses. Oh, I backed away alright, until I reached the safety of the pharmacy aisle, where things were far less hectic; guess no one was giving decongestants for Christmas. Ooh, two bottles of Mucinex for $10.00. I grabbed four. See how this disease spreads?
The peace didn’t last long, however. The boxes of Mucinex were yanked out of my hands, and I was shoved aside. I simply closed my eyes, and prayed for deliverance. Suddenly someone grabbed my hand and pulled me to safety. I thought it was Tabitha, but when I opened my eyes it was Shaw, smiling down at me.
“Come on, honey. Let’s get out of here,” he said, while pulling me toward the exit.
“I can’t leave without Tabitha!” I shouted over the fevered screams of shoppers clamoring for the new BTS CD.
“She’s already outside,” Shaw yelled. “I saw her running from the store just as I came in to get you!”
We found Tabitha sitting shell shocked in the front seat of her car, and the three of us watched the madness continue from the relative safety of the parking lot.
What would happen in a real emergency, I wondered, and shuddered to think what people would do if they were starving, instead of just trying to save a few bucks.
I didn’t get anything that day, but that was alright; I found everything I wanted at an after-Christmas sale for an even better price. Figures, huh?
Anyway that’s old news, a temporary glitch in the matrix of an otherwise ordinary life.
But as that time of year fast approaches again, and stores are already lining their shelves with Christmas decorations even before I’ve had the chance to buy my Thanksgiving Day turkey, I already find myself eyeing everyone a bit suspiciously, wondering when these seeming Dr. Jekylls will transform into Mr. Hyde.
Like the lady in line behind me. Sure, she’s all smiles now, but what will she be like around a stack of $10 towels that used to be $20? Or the guy who just yesterday held the door open for me as I entered Walmart, what’s he going to do if I’m in the way of his 30% off blue ray player? And that mother in the grocery store with the sweet children, singing songs as they shopped, will she body block me for a discounted American Girl doll?
Tabitha and I were getting the kids ready for Halloween (side note, her little sociopath was going as John Wayne Gacy) when she asks me THE question.
“Think you’ll ever do it again?”
I shrugged. “Will you?”
“I don’t know. It was so cold,” she said.
“And way too crowded,” I replied.
“We’d be crazy to try it another time.” Tabitha laughed.
“We would be,” I said.
“But … we would be more prepared this year,” she said.
“And we’d know exactly what to expect.”
“We could get there earlier.”
“And we could have a better game plan.”
“Are we crazy?” Tabitha asked.
“Yes,” I said. “I’m sure of it.”
The lines were far longer this year, the masses even less friendly and more frothy than I remembered. As we heard the characteristic click of the door being unlocked, I glanced down at our secret weapon: Tabitha’s little sociopath son, who wanted to come along and choose his own “shoot the guy in the head” video game.
Tabitha and I locked hands. “Here we go,” I said.
The little sociopath let out a Mel Gibson in Braveheart styled yell and tore through the crowd ahead of us.
We followed as he cleared a path from the parking lot to the electronics department in back of the store, all the while getting elbowed and shoved by the other beasts looking for a good deal. But Tabitha and I were ready this year, and instead of being thwarted by the massive horde, we had the steely determination of two women who, this time around, would not be denied.