When I was growing up, Black Friday was an institution in my home. My mother would awaken us, still drunk from the pounds of tryptophan-laced turkey we had consumed the night before. Then she would load our grouchy selves in the car, and then proceed to drop us at various retail locations so that we could wait in line for the proffered items at each store. I usually got sent to Target. My dad would be assigned Wal-mart, as he is 6’4 and could handle the crowds and the overzealous shoppers who desperately needed their electronics. And then my mom would take my sister and brother to Best Buy.
Being the oldest child and an introvert, I didn’t mind my assignment of Target. It was better than the years when we were younger and my mom would take us to JC Penny so that the five of us could each get the snowglobe doorbuster they were handing out. And most people at Target wouldn’t want to chat, as they would be too busy clutching their maps of the store and planning their shopping routes, so I would stand there, flier in hand, armed with cash and the goal of getting in and getting out.
The truth was, in spite of myself, I liked our family tradition of Black Friday. I enjoyed the adrenaline rush I got whenever I found the things that I had been sent to retrieve. There was an undeniable feeling of accomplishment whenever I procured the items on my list, and then afterwards there was the promise of breakfast, delicious breakfast—usually Egg McMuffins at McDonalds, which were served with a side of self-satisfaction at achieving our shopping goals.
This tradition continued well into my college years, and I distinctly remember the year I was standing outside, hugging my jacket to myself (believe it or not, it is actually kind of chilly in Florida in late November). I was twenty years old, and my mind was on getting back to school at the University of Florida on Sunday. I had pulled my massive pile of hair back and was rocking some pretty fantastic bright orange sweatpants with a giant Gator on them. Dramatically yawning, I stood there, waiting to buy my brother and sister’s main Christmas gifts (that year, they were these nice stereos. People had stereos back then) when I suddenly hear, “Amanda? Is that you?”
And I come face-to-face with this guy who I had a thing for in high school.
“Oh,” I said, swallowing hard, hoping that I had remembered to brush my teeth this morning. “How’s it going?”
I am not a morning person. Honestly, I don’t understand why my children even bother trying to talk to me before seven, because they have lived with me long enough now that they should know how things work. But you know, there I was, at four-something in the morning, desperately needing a shower and a breath mint, staring into the handsome face of a guy who we will call Bill. Unlike me, Bill seemed to not be flustered by the fact that we hadn’t seen each other in a couple years or that it was four-something in the morning, and so he started talking and I felt my cheeks growing hot as it turned out that he was also at Target in order to procure a stereo for his younger brother. He starts spelling out a plan of how we will get these stereos together, and I feel even more embarrassed but agree, because it makes sense, and then somehow we get into Target and procure the stereos and he leaves before I can really get my composure and utter something charming and witty and make him ask me out on a date, and before I know it, I am in the parking lot, alone, waiting for my mother to pick me up.
I don’t go shopping on Black Friday anymore. Well, at least not outside of my house. If my run-in with Bill wasn’t enough to persuade me to never venture out again, a few years later I moved to Virginia and it is much colder up here than it is in Florida, and while I still own the bright orange sweatpants, they clash with my parka. My plan for this Black Friday is to sit at my computer, in my pajamas, and scour the good deals on the Internet. The adrenaline rush is still there, but it works better this way. Not only do I not have to worry about having verbal diarrhea with people from my past, but I don’t even have to brush my teeth.
AFFILIATE LINKS ARE USED IN THIS POST