The one Black Friday item that Anne and I wanted more than any other this year was cheap pillows. We’re that old now.
Prior to launching MCC, my annual Black Friday experience was an eventful journey every time, sometimes spending/wasting half a day or more trekking the roads of Indianapolis from one commercial area to the next in search of super awesome deals. The novelty lost its charm for me when stores began pretending that Black Friday was 48 hours long and Thursdays were a myth created by the Norse as a distraction from their eternal winter. In recent years I’ve been willing to peek at the flyers in our Thursday morning newspaper — because, you see, we’re so old-fashioned that we still subscribe to local print journalism — but have no further interest in getting up before 6 a.m. just for shopping’s sake. If sale items are still available by the time I awaken, dress, feed, and sally forth, then hey, cool. But the thrill of competition and the lust for clearance-priced junk electronics are gone.
This year’s stack of Thanksgiving flyers was noticeably thinner than years past. I presume some stores think I’ll look them each up individually online. Nope. No paper ad, no deal. I like to reward those local businesses whose advertising dollars likewise help fund local news reporting and who realize there are still consumers over 30.
Granted, I couldn’t reward too many of them this year. Throughout 2019 half the inanimate objects around us have broken down and demanded attention — certain car parts, portions of our house, one major appliance, and so on. Right now is not a great time for highly pricey “fun” gadgets or ginormous splurges to replace or upgrade those objects that have behaved perfectly well and don’t absolutely need to be replaced just now. Also, those flyers vividly reminded me one-half of a really high price is still a high price.
But we scrounged up enough resources for at least a little discretionary fun today. Exhibit A: cheap Blu-rays! I’ve not felt the urge to upgrade everything in our household to 4K yet, so I was fine with my choices. And very picky. I’m now at an age where I don’t require hard copies of every single film I’ve ever seen. Selective hoarding saves money and should theoretically mean fewer clunkers for my survivors to have to waste time dropping off at thrift stores after I die.
That was pretty much my entire haul from our local big-box stores, not including one or more classified items acquired for Christmas-related reasons. By 8 a.m., each store still had quite a few copies of these titles in stock even though they’d been open continuously since Thanksgiving evening. That’s indicative either of the ongoing decline in demand for physical media or of shoppers unanimously assuming all the best films were sold out hours prior and therefore not even bothering to go look for them. Either way, the advantage was mine.
Oddly, the most shopping fun for me was at Kohl’s, the scene of our lead photo. I faced the Tetris-like challenge of stuffing six $3 pillows and one $40 portable record player into a shopping cart made for a hobbit. The store’s additional 15%-off coupon provided further incentive to make it work. One pillow went on the bottom rack; three pillows filled the cart itself; the turntable and the other two pillows were stacked on top like a precarious Jenga tower. Anne had actually asked for eight pillows. She was regrettably otherwise engaged and unable to tag along. Without a partner for assistance, eight pillows wasn’t happening with this Barbie Dream Cart.
As it was, I was confounded at every other turn as I navigated through the narrow, crowded aisles, dodging stacked merchandise and meandering shoppers with my makeshift replica of Howl’s Moving Castle teetering and threatening to fall on them. At least the pillows wouldn’t hurt, but it took much monitoring to keep the turntable from sliding off and turning into so much damaged goods.
More fun was had at checkout, where the clerk insisted on scanning each and every item’s bar code individually instead of ringing up just one pillow and entering “QUANTITY: 6” into the register, because security protocols mandated they be on the lookout for any conniving pillow tricksters. I cooperated enthusiastically, emptied the cart and proceeded to build a cool pillow fort right there on the counter, using the turntable as my solid foundation. Upon completing the transaction, she politely waited while I dismantled Puffy Highclere Castle, re-Tetris’d my cart and wheeled away.
Thus concluded the shopping spree. Now we can throw away all our pancake-flatted pillows that should’ve been tossed out long ago, and I own my first record player in over twenty years. We have dozens of vinyl LPs on hand dating back to the ’70s or farther (plus a few old 45s ’round here somewhere), but lacked the requisite device ever since my grandma’s old stereo went kaput in the late ’90s. “Record player” has been on my Black Friday brainstorming lists for ages, but kept getting cut in the final rounds. This year the price was at long last right. I won’t be surprised if it short-circuits and explodes in three months, so I’ll have to make the most of it while its discount innards last.
Partly as a reward for prudent frugality and some semblance of self-control, I kept the rest of my Black Friday simple, though not as harmless as I’d hoped. I got home, unpacked, fired up the turntable, put away the Thanksgiving decorations, started to retrieve the Christmas stuff from the attic, fell through the garage ceiling, cleaned up the mess, finished retrieving the Christmas stuff, cleaned up my wounds, and then spent the rest of the day relaxing in front of screens, satisfied that for once my biggest pains incurred on this day were physical rather than financial. And all things considered, those $3 pillows feel like a luxury.