Black Friday: Dividing the great country Columbus founded

I think the most divisive American holiday is Black Friday. Even more divisive than Columbus Day, whose namesake people are just now realizing was maybe not very nice. Possibly Black Friday could be renamed Columbus Day since Columbus had a black heart and also bought commodities (9-year-old girls, natives) at a discount. Please call your congressman if you agree.

Oh, what’s that? Black Friday isn’t a holiday? Well, most people have off from work and you can buy a new mattress with no payments for 12 months so … it’s a holiday.

Like many, I had always assumed the “black” in Black Friday represented the sheer awfulness of the experience of going out and shopping that day. Who can forget the brave woman who lost her foot in the double sliding doors of Sears back in ’94? Probably a lot of people since it never happened, but still. It happened.

But recent years have beaten us over the head with the fact that the black signifies how stores go from red into black on this day, financially speaking. I think it was John D. Rockefeller himself who defined capitalism as “when retailers can bleed money for months and months and get it all back in one day thanks to the unofficial start of a shopping season that commemorates Christ’s birth.” God bless America.

No doubt it is our duty to help produce corporate profit, and there are two types of Americans: those who love to shop on Black Friday and those who have jobs and/or families and/or a sense of perspective. And it’s not like the latter group shirks its responsibility as Americans since Cyber Monday allows them to get their shopping done the old fashioned way—while at work.

Judging from my earlier statement re: sheer awfulness of the experience of going out and shopping that day, you can guess which camp I fall into. But even my wife who, when you compliment something she is wearing will respond not with a thank you but by saying, “Guess how much I paid? Seriously, take a guess,” resides safely with me on the side of common sense. It is from this side we watch in awe the footage of people shopping at 5 a.m. or even midnight, and realize the side of common sense is the overwhelming minority.

I will not judge the other side. Although I will because like I said, it’s a divisive holiday. I think it’s neat-o to take advantage of a day off by waking up earlier than you would have if you had to go to work just so you can go fight to spend money alongside an army of like-minded and aggressive humans. Plus parking lots are always fun. It’s like, who wants to be having a relaxing pancake breakfast with their family when they could be jostling for position in a Walmart checkout line? Not me, that’s who.

Someone from this species once said to me, “But that is our family bonding experience, my daughter and I get up super early every year to shop on Black Friday … it’s our tradition!” I certainly can’t argue with that, although it should be mentioned this family’s Fourth of July tradition is setting off fireworks in each other’s pants.

Truth be told, our family does have one great Black Friday retail-related memory. Some years back, Target was promoting its Black Friday sale by allowing online users to set up pre-recorded wake-up calls from celebrities. My wife and I thought this was super dumb, so obviously we went online and set the service up to call my sister Jill at 4 a.m. Black Friday morning. The list of celebrity voices was thin, so we chose Kermit the Frog.

As we sat at the table eating breakfast, we asked Jill if she received any weird calls that morning. “Actually yeah,” she said, “Kermit the Fr—” and then she was struck by the ridiculousness of her own words and realized what had happened. Had she actually heeded Kermit the Frog’s advice, we never would have been able to share the laugh we did that morning.

It was the best Columbus Day ever!

(Did that work? No? Darn.)


Note: This column appears in the 11/27 issue of The Glendale Star and 11/29 BLACK FRIDAY issue of the Peoria Times.