I’ve been on both sides of the Black Friday festival of pain. For four years, I worked the front end of a Kmart while hordes ran and raged, and men in red aprons shed tears and maybe a little pee. I’ve also waited in the cold, on a line that resembled a serpent squeezing the life out of a building — my mind continuously calculating the odds of me coming away with my desired techno gadgets in an effort to distract myself as I watched people emerge victorious from those places I longed to be.
That was a couple of years ago, though. Now, I do my Black Friday shopping online and accept that I’ll never get my hands on a $99 laptop. I’m not wiser now, just more weary. Black Friday is a young/fit person’s game, and I am too old for that sh*t, and not so nimble that I might outrun a Red Bull charged-up absentee father with fear in his rearview and the notion that “Daddy can make it all better” with an epic day of presents on his mind. He can’t.
Presents and other material things truly can’t buy happiness, but what they can buy is a few seconds of joy. And that’s why Black Friday is kind of magical.
To state the obvious, not everyone can afford to make their kid a Power Wheels kid 365 days a year. If you recall the playground food chain, Power Wheels kids were the ones who got all the cool sh*t for Christmas and Hanukkah and their birthdays, and when they did good in school and just because. I hated them and you probably did, too (unless you were one). Now, some time later, that sense of jealousy and longing has come together to drive people to do more for their kids than their parents could. And if you, like me, don’t have kids, then the never-ending quest to be an adult Power Wheels kid pow-pow-powers on as you continuously fail to say no to your inner child.
For questing individuals of low or moderate means, Black Friday stands as the great equalizer. It’s The Purge, but instead of lawlessness, we shed economic limitations (and regrettably go f*cking nuts on each other’s faces in the process). To put it more poetically, it’s “Party Like a Rockstar” day, and you’re making it rain $4 Blu-rays like the smell of burning money makes your soul wet because stuff, for lack of a better word, is good.
Stuff is right.
Stuff works… on occasion.
Stuff clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit — think of people without smartphones: troglodytic motherf*ckers.
Stuff, in all of its forms — fancy-assed jackets and sneakers, new video game consoles, computers, and Blu-ray copies of the highly quotable Oliver Stone film, Wall Street — has marked the upward surge of mankind. Or something.
So, this Black Friday, don’t automatically turn your noses up at people who surrender their Thanksgiving with their families to give those families the true gift of better and shinier stuff. Instead, understand that, for them, this is their best chance at grabbing hold of that most American of dreams for even a moment: to be a Power Wheels kid or a Power Wheels parent.
And also, maybe their families are tough to be around. Just saying.
You can, however, feel free to judge the hell out of the trample-y people who surrender their humanity, get violent and/or loud and vicious in a Target parking lot. They’re assholes.