Okay, Thanksgiving has finally come and gone, and I had a wonderful day. I hope you found equal enjoyment in the day.
And I am more than aware of the history of imperialism and genocide subtending the holiday; if we really view the holiday with a critical eye, it is almost as if the nation takes a day off and feasts in celebration of the decimation of a people.
However, even in light of this, I choose to observe Thanksgiving. Notice I didn’t use the word celebrate. I choose to spend the day with my family and friends. Sometimes life becomes so hectic that I get to see these people, even those living only a five minute drive from me, only infrequently, and this day becomes one in which we can all get together and put aside petty internecine quarrels and just enjoy each others’ company.
But I still cannot for the life of me understand the psychology behind Black Friday. Even as Thanksgiving wound down and we worked to sweep away the remains of the day, I could hear people making plans for Black Friday.
Some of them planned not to even sleep. They had set an itinerary that included visiting Toys R Us at twelve midnight, then swinging by Old Navy at three in the morning, followed by a trip to Best Buy at five, and ending with an excursion to Walmart.
As they formulated their plans, I watched their faces twist into masks of almost sinister, diabolical anticipation. Mothers who only moments before had lovingly prepared plates of food for their children and had gently swept the crumbs from their laps and wiped their cherubic little faces were suddenly given to masterminding hostile shopping forays into various locales throughout the city.
And as I looked on not knowing whether or not I should also be afraid, I wondered what drove them, what motivated them. What could transform mild mannered mothers and grandmothers into marauding shopping soldiers? Then I glanced across the room at my children’s dog, and I began to formulate a theory.
Sometime following Thanksgiving dinner, someone thought it would be hilarious to give my children’s nine pound rat terrier a huge ham bone. The bone was so big, almost as big as he is, that he could only move it inches at a time, but to the delight of the crowd, he doggedly (pun unintended) pushed and pulled that bone until he got it right where he wanted it, and then set to stripping it of whatever meat that remained.
Now he and his bare bone are ensconced in a corner where he vigilantly stands guard over it; however, the children are using his big bone ambitions to manipulate him. If they want him to go into another room, they simply grab his bone and protesting all the while, he follows behind. They are using the bone to force him to do all kind of tricks that I didn’t even know he knew how to do. Evidently, this dog is some kind of canine savant who has kept his talents hidden all this time.
And also I am seeing a side of him that I have never seen before. In his pre-big bone life he was a mild manner, playful little pup, but suddenly, when you get near his big bone, he turns absolutely viscous. This animal is suddenly exhibiting traits I never knew him to have, and it took the big bone to bring them out.
I may be oversimplifying this whole Black Friday thing a bit, but based on my empirical data, Black Friday is the simply the equivalent of my children’s little dog’s big bone. The department stores and other retail outlets offer us a big bone in the form of fantastic deals on merchandise that has been steeply marked up in the first place, and we lose our collective minds. We rush from store to store in the wee hours of the morning spending, and in most cases overspending, obscene amounts of money, and then we go home to sleep, consoled by the thought of how much stuff we managed to amass and how much we saved in the process of doing so.
Then a week later, the same stores run the same sales all over again. And as we get closer and closer to Christmas, and the stores get more determined and desperate to move as much merchandise as possible, the deals get even better, so we go out and spend even more money.
Come New Year’s when the spell wears off, reality sets in, and we begin to receive those credit card statements, we’ll all probably be cursing our collective selves. But I am not trying to chastise or criticize anyone. I just got way too much time on my hands today just to sit around and come up with stupid theories and philosophize about nothing.
Plus my wife and mother-in-law are out there somewhere in that barbarian horde of shoppers. When they left here, I could not even recognize them as the people I have grown to love over all these years. It was almost as if they were in some kind of trance. Their eyes were glazed over, and they moved methodically, robotically like cyborgs. So please don’t even tell her I wrote this, or she’ll probably return home and in her frenzied, out-of-mind state, hit me upside the head with that same big bone that inspired this post.
Recommended reading: “A Brief History of Black Friday”