The Friday after Thanksgiving is called “Black Friday.” What an ominous name. They say the name is due to the fact that on this day retailers move from profit loss (red) to profit gain (black). While this may be true, I believe the origins of the name are more gothic in nature, more evil and representative of something far more sinister. Black Friday is retail Hell, a day choreographed by demons. I am sure of it. On Black Friday, 11/28/2008 I entered the black soul of retail. My wife took me to Wal-Mart in Fort Oglethorpe, GA at 4:30 a.m.
Maybe it is called Black Friday because it is indeed very, very dark at 4:30 a.m. But we were there by invitation, summonsed like sheep to the slaughter by a 12 pound edition of the Chattanooga Times Free Press the day before. On most days the newspaper weighs about an ounce and a half, but on Thanksgiving Day, a holy, godly day, the devil sends out invitations to death. Glossy, full color, captivating sales booklets all of them nothing but publicity posters for a human cockfight that will begin at 5 a.m. the next morning. Every store plans its own human cockfight. From Walgreens to Best Buy, flannel shirts 5 for $5 to Blue Ray DVD players, the devil stages human cockfighting arenas all over town. It is a well crafted scheme. The invitations read “while supplies last” and the humans know this means that the manager at Goody’s has ordered only seven 21 inch LCD televisions which he will sell for almost nothing. There will be seven televisions, there will be 112 humans ready to fight. The devil knows you will be one of them, rising from the dead long before the chickens, emerging from the darkness to take your place in line along with a woman carrying a meat cleaver in her purse. She is fully prepared to make sure you pull back a nub if you dare to fondle her doorbuster.
We emerged from the darkness of the dimly lit Wal-Mart parking area and entered the door labeled “food” on the left end of the super-center. Though there were a quarter of a million people already there, it was quiet. Quiet to the point that the only sound was the shuffling feet of the walking dead and the buzz of massive fluorescent light fixtures illuminating the sprawl of human cock fighting arenas. Our human cock fighting arena was near the automotive section. We went there without question. At 4:30 a.m. a man is so drunk with the reality that he is actually at Wal-Mart in the middle of the night that he has no fear of women or meat cleavers. He has no problem being called “lefty” for the rest of his life if he can but for one day be a hero to his daughters as he presents to them a doorbuster won in a cock fight; a doorbuster for them to unwrap on Christmas morning.
We passed many arenas. Stations of wrapped doorbusters piled on pallets arranged across a pearly white floor that would soon be splattered with blood. It was so quiet, shuffling feet, the buzz of lights. The half-dead all gathered in clusters facing toward their chosen doorbuster much like religious zealots facing east at prayer time. Their eyes were sunken deep into their skull. Women with no makeup, hair in curlers, wearing pajama pants, desperately needing a smoke – poised to kill. Fathers, good men, reduced by the hour and by their wives into blobs of spineless submission. Each of them peering at their hands, romantically counting their fingers knowing there was a good chance that when the clock struck 5 he would never point in the same way again. I whispered as I slithered by as to encourage them, “Hey lefty, that doll on that pallet pees in its pants, your daughter will love it. The batteries you need are on the endcap at register 7.” And I held up my index finger as if to say, “This is a number one kind of experience isn’t it?” But what I really meant by the gesture is “Look at my finger, in ten minutes it will be on the floor.”
We clustered near our pallet/human cockfighting arena. Our arena was deep in the automotive section. So deep that we could not see the other clusters. Our view of the coming maylay was blocked by a row of nicely displayed 75R 15 Michelins. The Wal-Mart full of zombies continued to house the ominous quiet. How would the silence end? What would signal the brawl to begin? I am not sure what the signal was, but just seconds before 5 a.m. a subtle roar began to sweep over the store like a wave. The wave seemed to form near the frozen food section 1/4 mile away and grew more intimidating as it neared automotive. Within the wave was the sound of tearing paper, tearing limbs, meat cleavers, machetes, four letter words, women screaming, and ever so subtle as if to be its own undercurrent I swear I heard the hiss of the devil arise from retail Hell.
I gathered our item on a hand truck and bolted for the door. I felt a sense of fear and dread sweep over me. I had escaped the human cock fight with my finger, but I had inadvertently sprinted away so fast I had left my lovely wife for dead. Would she survive? Drunk on 4:30 it seemed logical that losing my wife but saving $150 was a fair trade. A man thinks differently in darkness. But she was there, just barely there. She kept pace with me, laughing in stride as she slowly slipped a meat cleaver back into her purse.
I survived retail Hell. Black Friday is a day orchestrated by Satan. Wal-Mart is Satan’s super-center. I am a survivor. Merry Christmas.