As I write this, I'm safely ensconced in my office on a Friday, and it's kind of quiet in the newsroom. In fact, I may be the only one in the office, since most folks are working from home due to this wretched pandemic. But for the first time in forever, I'll actually be off the day after Thanksgiving.
I've rarely, if ever, shopped on Black Friday. I'm almost always working that day, and even on the rare occasion when I go ahead and take the day off because no one else in the newsroom claimed it, I'm usually home, putting up the Christmas tree or doing laundry and watching "Law and Order" reruns. I vaguely remember going to a movie in Tulsa once on Black Friday, but venturing through the traffic there is taking your life into your own hands - or rather, the hands of every other crazed driver out there looking for a deal.
Many years ago, a sports editor of ours was determined to get a Furby for one of his younger brothers at Walmart. The Furbies were to be up for grabs beginning very early - maybe 6 a.m. Once this guy finished his stories and pages for the day, he took a pup tent, a lawn chair and a Thermos full of something to Walmart and set up shop. The next time we saw him, he had a knot on his head. Someone had rushed the line, and when he stood up, a man of considerable girth in front of him thought he was trying to squeeze past, so he backhanded my co-worker. The sports guy reported seeing a couple of gals 20 or so feet behind him in line start duking it out, yanking out hanks of hair and digging in their claws. One of those women lost her shirt, revealing a soiled brassiere, until a nearby man offered her his jacket. Ultimately, the sports guy did get the Furby, so apparently it was worth the effort.
A few years later, when Furbies were no longer the rage, my in-laws gave my son one for Christmas. By that time, Cole was a little old for such toys - probably 11 or 12 - but the thing freaked him out. For no reason we could discern, it would often start talking in the middle of the night. Even after it was banished to a closet, we would occasionally hear it mumbling its non-sensical phrases, and the dog would bark at it. The dog tucked his tail between his legs and raised his hackles if the Furby was in view. Finally my husband gave it away to some unfortunate charitable enterprise and it became someone else's problem.
Every year, you read about someone getting killed during a Black Friday crush - kind of like overzealous fans at a Who concert. That's never happened around these parts, to my recollection, but petty thievery and variations on the aforementioned scuffles often erupt. And since a lot of folks won't venture out due to the pandemic, perhaps we'll escape a fatality this year, too. Or not. Tensions are high.
Several years ago, I was typing away in my office when something on the scanner caught my attention. I heard an officer say, in the calm voice they typically employ, "That woman's back at Walmart and she's at it again." I had to wait for a bit until I learned what "at it again" meant. She had picked a fight with another woman over the last rock-bottom-priced television set and had been asked to leave. But apparently she had her eye on an item back in sporting goods - I'm not sure what, but it wasn't a gun; I'd remember that. So she had crept back into the building, and it wasn't long before she was in somebody else's face. A comment came over the scanner that I didn't quite catch, and then the original officer said, "He hasn't done anything; he says he's afraid to defend himself because he doesn't want to go to jail, and besides, he says she's kind of a big ol' gal and he doesn't want to tangle with her." Yes, indeed. We big ol' gals can be quite the threat when someone beats us to the last dirt-cheap fishing pole on the shelf.
On another Black Friday occasion, a friend told me how she was reaching for the single remaining box of White Fudge-Dipped Oreos when she almost lost her life, or at least a few teeth. It's likely there was only one box left because I had scored the rest of them earlier in the day. As she stretched out her hand, a woman she described as "over 6 feet tall and like a Sumo wrestler" screamed, "I saw those first!" The woman shoved my friend out of the way, seized the box of baked evil, and threw them into her cart. Unfortunately, these cookies were on a special display, and my friend staggered backward and landed atop another shopper. The two of them went down like sacks of rocks, scattering the items on two nearby displays. The second victim, a teenage girl, hit my friend in the back of the head with her oversized purse and uttered a few choice four-letter words. Worried Walmart employees emerged to clean up the mess. Later, when my friend was checking out, she almost got behind the aggressive woman in a line, until she recognized her. She moved to the next line, but not before she noticed the gal had already opened the box of Oreos and was munching on a cookie. Satan had already begun his work.
And so it begins with the rest of us - the steady upward holiday climb on the scales. Wish us all luck.