The one Black Friday item that Anne and I wanted more than any other this year was cheap pillows. We’re that old now.
Last Christmas season on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Black Friday is my annual one-man road trip. I pick one side of Indianapolis; I hit the open road in that direction, leaving family and friends behind; and I enjoy some time alone. Sure, to the average human, rushing headlong into frenzied crowds may sound like the stupidest strategy to achieve solitude. For an introvert like me who draws very little attention and rarely inspires conversation from strangers, it works surprisingly well.
Frankly, I wasn’t sure what to expect this year. I kept my expectations near zero and remained open to the possibility that I might come home empty-handed and down in the dumps. I worried that so many stores opening the evening before would serve to put the “lack” in “Black Friday”. Would all the suspiciously priced sale items be sold out? Would all the store shelves and displays be barren, their wares looted by the Blackest Thursday stampedes? Would the stores themselves still be standing, or collapsed from the wear and tear of consumer shootouts larger and grander than the Battle of Helm’s Deep?
A few stores failed me, but I’m pleased that a few locations catered to my modest whims. Per my personal standards, my trip only lasted from 8 a.m. to noon., at which point I promptly pulled the plug and went straight home. Firm boundaries are a key component of effective self-restraint.
No one would deny that Black Friday, on a base level, has always been about crass consumerism. Even in more mild-mannered times when the day after Thanksgiving was simply the starter pistol that signaled the first day for many people to initiate Christmas season protocols, phase one was almost always, “Commence gift-shopping.” Within that oft-derided framework, though, for the past several years I managed to develop myself a fun routine in which I found fun and purpose in my own little ways.
My ritual would begin each Thanksgiving evening, after all relatives were finished with my presence for the day. For just this one special day out of the year, I would spend several hours reading a newspaper. My wife and I would open up the day’s issue of the Indianapolis Star, toss the articles to one side for later skimming, and have several hundred pages of ads lying before us. I would assess our technological and living situation; brainstorm a list of things that could use replacing, upgrading, or first-time owning; then study all the ads laboriously like Rupert Giles researching an obscure monster. I created a notebook index of my most viable store options — potential deals for the items on our want list, both the most impressive sales and the next-best alternatives in case I was beaten to the punch by too many other, wilier shoppers. I would assemble a strict chronological itinerary visit in descending order of store opening times. In my own special way, I prepared for war.