Saturday, November 27, 2010

Confessions of a Black Friday Shopper

"This has got to be the dumbest thing I've ever done," he said.

Hundreds of us stand outside in gusty winter wind at wee hours of the morning. Our line snakes through the enormous parking lot of a local home improvement store.

Because we want one thing:

To prove we are the dumbest among mankind.

Oops. No, I mean...a good deal. Yeah, we want a good deal.

But as the gentleman behind me in line uttered, "This has got to be the dumbest thing I've ever done," I just had to laugh.

Here we are, dressed like eskimos trying to stay warm in gale force winds on one of the coldest days of November anticipating the opportunity to grab a coveted item at a rock-bottom price.

I had never taken part in Black Friday festivities before. I was a newbie to the game.

I spent Thanksgiving afternoon combing through all the ads, making my list - my plan of attack.

Though I crawled into bed by 9pm in hopes of catching some brief shut-eye, I was much too excited to sleep. After tossing and turning for hours, I got up at 1:30, pulled on layer after layer of clothing and headed for the door. I would arrive at my first shopping stop by 2am to wait in line for an hour.

I was officially a Doorbuster. Awesome.

The line wasn't too long yet, so I was feeling pretty good about nabbing the three items I would scamper for when the doors flew open.

Oddly, people don't have much of a sense of humor at 2am. I find that shocking.

Seriously, look at us. We're standing in line, freezing to the point of numbness, just to say we got something for 60% off. That in itself is hilarious.

But no one seemed to find my jokes funny. There was, however, a guy who showed up around 2:30 and spouted a great joke. I laughed heartily.

I was the only one.

Come on, people. Maybe their faces were frozen?

I was taken a bit aback when some 4th or 5th grade boys came along peddling hot cocoa for a buck to weary shoppers. Truth is, their parents were doing the peddling. The boys were just holding the cups.


Honestly, you're going to get your kids up at 2am to try to make a few bucks? And I mean a few. I only saw two people even take them up on their offer for that toasty beverage.

Black Friday shoppers take their job very seriously. No laughing at jokes. No unplanned purchases. Keep it on the straight and narrow. I was learning a lot about my new position.

As the hour we eagerly anticipated draws near, the crowd becomes restless. Soon there is squishing, shoving, and suddenly I am nearly hugging a perfect stranger.

The doors open. The crowd forges ahead.

I'm appalled as a woman behind me grabs my coat to stay within the fray. If my jacket gets ripped because of this nonsense, my sense of humor will be gone, too.

As last-minute cheaters attempt to squeeze in along the sides, they break the department store door. Yes, actually break it.

It's mayhem.

And sadly, I'm a part of it.

Whew, we're in. I go dashing off to find my deals. I am fortunate enough to snatch the last pair of boots in my size (yes!), and there are a plethora of the other items I came for, so I gather my wares and head for the checkout line.

Wow, these people move fast. The checkout line winds so far back, most people are muttering expletives under their breath as they walk endlessly along in search for the end of the line. As I wait in line, I get to listen to various conversations. It is wildly fun.

"How much are those things?" she asks.

"Five dollars each."

"Five dollars?! I would never pay that much for that."

Ooh, never mess with a shopper who thought they were getting a great deal. I can see the fury in her eyes.

Fortunately, a husband to one of them interjects to change the subject. Whew! Good move, man. That's why you came along, isn't it?

But kudos to this department store. Service is fast and plentiful. The line moves along quickly and soon I'm out the door to my next destination.

But this store is at the mall. My biggest challenge: parking.

Since newly-fallen snow has blurred the lines, cars are parked every which way. As I'm tempted to join in with that technique, I spot a patrol car.

Rats. Because I just know I'd be the one to get a ticket, guaranteed.

So I drive around and around and around and around until finally at the far end of the lot, I find a spot.

Again, I find my items swiftly, checkout is painless, and I'm ready for what's next.

Ugh, next store isn't open yet. So now I'll be doorbusting again. This one is significantly less violent, though. And these people had a sense of humor. Note to self: apparently nothing is funny until 4am. Or maybe it had to do with the fact that they were still drunk from the night before.

Fine with me, I'm just grateful for a responsive audience.

I should have appreciated the simplicity of this store. Because the next door I would bust through would be my greatest challenge.

It is here where I meet "This is the dumbest thing..." man. I appreciated the gentleman next to him, too. "People just go nuts. I don't get it. It's just stuff," he said.

Truth is, I feel the same way. But then why were we both standing in line at 4:30am for "stuff?" Because we all have an element of "crazy" in us. That's why.

Mayhem and chaos abounds. I get what I came for, but the multitude of people was overwhelming. If I hadn't needed a cart in order to haul the heavy item I was purchasing, the experience would have been much less daunting, I suppose. It's hard enough to maneuver you're own body through a crowd, let alone a huge shopping cart too. I don't think I've said "I'm sorry" that many times within an hour in my life. It was impossible not to smack into someone at every turn.

It's incredible to me how not 12 hours earlier it is likely that most of us were sitting around a table overflowing with food, giving thanks for all that we had in life.

And now? People are cussing, they're frustrated, they're cold, they're hot, they're frantic.

What a difference a day makes.

It gives the "Black" in Black Friday a whole new meaning.

But even with all the grumblers, there are the girlfriends, the mothers and daughters, and college buddies enjoying the chaos - er, fun - together.

In fact, my only regret of the morning was not having someone with me to experience the craziness. That would have made it more fun. And whoever it was would probably have laughed at my jokes at 2am.

You can't put a price tag on that.

Monday, November 1, 2010

I'm no Madonna, but I may get her face.

I had the privilege of discovering how "the other half" lives today.

I was treated to four hours at a luxury spa. To say I was looking forward to it this morning at 7am is a big understatement.

Because my 8-year-old daughter actually said, "Mom, why are you acting so happy?"

If you came to my house on any other day at 7am you would understand her confusion. I am NOT a morning person and trying to get everyone dressed, throw breakfast on the table, pack lunches and snacks, and fly out the door to the bus stop in less than an hour is not a mood-enhancer in my book.

But today definitely was different.

I was going to be pampered.

Of course plenty of guilt pours over me at the thought of actually taking time to do something for myself.

Fortunately the price was right and I wasn't about to let an opportunity like this slip on by - guilt or no guilt.

On one hand, I like to think I'm not all that different from the typical clientele at a spa. I use my manners. I'm courteous. I like to drink water with fruit in it.

But on the other hand, I'm a complete idiot when it comes to actually knowing how to utilize the place.

You see, I'm one of those people that needs to read a book called "Spas for Dummies." No really. I'm quite unaccustomed to the ins and outs of a spa experience. And the people working there are so used to the environment they forget to mention the details.

Like how you won't be able to see your hand in front of your face when you enter your private steam/shower room. So you'll turn on the shower just so you can break through the steam, only to discover a soft - now sopping wet - towel lay folded on a bench for you to sit on and a drowned cup of water with - yes, fruit in it. If I would have been able to even see seating in there I could have enjoyed that whole experience a lot more.

Or it'd be nice if they'd tell you that you may burn your leg on a steam jet because you are, well, an idiot. Or that you simply stepped into a poorly designed corner of the shower. Either way, ouch.

Not exactly relaxing.

But I like massages. Generally. Only they should ask you if you're ticklish. The tension in my body obviously elevated as my massage therapist began to rub my upper arm just gliding near my armpit. He kept massaging with deeper motions and I was doing all I could to avoid laughing out loud! When you're sighing with relief when the guy finally puts your arm down and moves on, the massage probably isn't reaching its fullest potential.

My problem is I can't stop thinking about what the massage therapist is thinking. I imagine it to be, "What a strange place for a mole." or " "Wow, her fingernails need clipping." or "I've never experienced such tense upper arms!" Or I lie there and wonder if his hands are getting tired. Did he want to come to work today? Is he daydreaming about his lunch plans?

It kinda ruins the whole "it's all about you" concept of a spa.

But overall, it was a good massage and I would recommend it. Just be sure to tell him if you're ticklish.

Next it was time to hit the facial room....

Where a sophisticated woman rubbed crushed diamonds all over my face until I was red as a beet....but on my way to looking five years younger!

I even underwent the "Madonna treatment" (as it has been touted) - an oxygen infusion. Basically pumping oxygen into my pores and forcing the serum of my choice into various layers of skin. But it sounds and feels like someone is passing gas on your face.

Seriously. The technician even said, "It's going to sound really strange."

Translation from sophistication to simplicity: "It's going to sound like a fart."

Who knew Madonna would be so in love with flatulence. Nevertheless, I don't look like Madonna. At least not yet.

So far, just red, blotchy "wind-burned" cheeks. But I'm told in a few days I'll look so young I'm sure I'll be grabbing a wooden spoon belting out "Material Girl."

After a catered cuisine, my final stop was the pedicure chair. Ah, a place I at least recognize. (Not that I frequent them, but I see them at the mall!)

As crazy as it sounds, my favorite part of the day was probably seeing my sparkly purple toenails as I put my magazine down to grab my keys and head home.

I am grateful for the experience, but honestly I wouldn't pay money to do it again. But that's why it was a gift, and I'm appreciative of it.

But I'm also appreciative of the fact that I can spend a couple bucks on sparkly purple polish, throw a strawberry in my water glass, and be just as happy.

As for those diamonds? I still treasure the ones on my finger more than the effects of those on my face.

And let's face it, I'm the mother of two boys. I can get that gas-in-the-face thing on a daily basis.