So I bought this gorgeous black leather jacket and was dying to wear it; instead, it hung in my closet for months. That’s because - darn this California weather- it wasn’t cold enough to warrant even a sweater. But last year, on Thanksgiving Day, I noted a modest chill in the air and thought, alleluia! I get to finally wear my sleek new jacket.
And I was feeling pretty stylish until my sister admired it. “That’s a beautiful chocolate color,” she exclaimed.
Uh, no sis, are you color blind? My jacket is black. But upon closer inspection, after going outside and scrutinizing the jacket under the blinding glare of the midday sun, and after closely comparing it with my black shoes and black purse, and squinting my eyes and praying that perhaps this was just a light shade of black, I had to concede my sister was right: however subtle, the jacket was indeed dark brown.
Darn! This meant if I wanted the black jacket, I’d have to return to the store to exchange this one. And I realized with a sickened knot in my stomach that since today was Thanksgiving, that could only mean one thing: tomorrow was Black Friday. Stores would be swamped with stampeding hordes of manic bug-eyed bargain-seekers, items would be flying off the racks, and any chance I had of finding my coveted black jacket meant I’d have to face the throngs and go to the store.
Early. On Black Friday.
Now once upon a time I enjoyed shopping on this day, long before it was so dubiously dubbed Black Friday. Stores opened early, featured tempting sales, and people flocked to the shops to admire the decorations, get in the spirit of Christmas, and pick up some bargains in the process. It was a nice way to launch the holidays while burning off pumpkin pie calories.
Not anymore. Today, the day after Thanksgiving has come to signify a putrid partnership of retail greed coupled with consumer gluttony. It’s morphed from representing the start of the holiday season into the lead story on the 6:00 news featuring a mosh pit of rabid, robotic, drooling crowds charging a jam-packed Walmart at 4:00 am, groping for anything that might be on sale. Need a Garfield Chia Kit or an old CD by Kevin Federline? Who the hell cares? Grab it dude, because it’s 50 percent off! I’ve come to dread the onset of Christmas because these inevitable scenes of wanton vulgarity sadden and repulse me. And every year, I vow to never, ever set foot in a store on Black Friday. Or any day even close to it.
So I had to ask myself: how badly did I want this black jacket? I considered stabbing myself in the eyeballs because then I’d have more pressing concerns than the color of my clothes. Instead, I strategized: on Black Friday, which venue nearest my home might draw the lesser crowd? The enclosed shopping mall 15 minutes south or the outdoor shopping plaza 15 minutes north? I rubbed my lucky Rabbit’s Foot, threw salt over my shoulder, crossed my fingers, opted for the latter and hoped for the best.
And that is how, at 9:00 am on Black Friday, I found myself in Dante’s Inferno, aka the dreaded department store. But there were no carnivorous crowds jamming elbows into rib cages. No eager sales clerks hovering over me in anticipation of a coveted commission. Not only did I find the last black leather jacket on the rack, it was an additional $50 off, which made my venture just a bit sweeter. Since the crowds were lighter than expected, I decided to walk around and do some shopping myself, maybe grab a hot chocolate and engage in a little people-watching. Hey, there was even that long-awaited nip in the air: I could don my new jacket!
Strolling through the plaza, I admired festive window decorations while enjoying carols piped through outdoor speakers. Sales clerks weren’t pushy, but pleasant. Shoppers were cheery, courteous and kind, opening doors, saying “thank you,” smiling. Frequent exclamations of “Merry Christmas” rang through the air and not once did I see anyone rushing, ramming or shoving. This was the day after Thanksgiving as I remembered it. Before shopping malls mutated into bottomless chasms and big-box stores encouraged mindless masses to run amuck in search of a penny saved.
I snuggled my scarf a bit tighter around my neck and sat near an outdoor fountain, sipping my steaming peppermint mocha while absorbing the view before me: parents leading their excited toddler to see Santa; the Golden retriever wearing an elf cap; and the 16-foot Christmas tree newly adorned with ornaments the size of cantaloupes. I relished the bite in the air and the joy of the season. Such an unexpected surprise this day turned out to be. I reveled in the moment, my cynicism melting and the holiday spirit dawning as subtle as…
…well, as subtle as a brown leather jacket.