Freedom To Brawl

It’s Black Friday.  Those who are in the grip of Black Friday mania have already been out at the stores for hours, tussling over the electronic gadgets and big screen TVs and kids’ toys that are the staples of Black Friday sales.  If you don’t already have somebody’s grandmother in a headlock in your efforts to get one of the last sale items at Walmart, you’re probably not going to be venturing to the stores today.  And, you’re probably feeling embarrassed about how the whole Black Friday spectacle reflects poorly on those of us who live in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

artworks-000452007756-44zv8j-t500x500But, should you be embarrassed, really?  Or, should you, upon careful reflection, realize that Black Friday riots are instead a quintessential expression of American freedoms that, while not specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights, are nevertheless core parts of the American experience?

I’m talking about things like freedom to shop for hours.  Freedom to demonstrate unseemly personal greed.  Freedom to make a complete horse’s ass of yourself in a public setting.  Freedom to go deeply into debt on credit cards.  And freedom to spoil your kids rotten with the stuff that you ultimately purchase on Black Friday and then give to them on Christmas.

The Spectator has published a defense of Black Friday brawling.  It provides some interesting information about Black Friday — like how it was invented in Philadelphia and initially called Big Friday before it was rebranded with the same name as a great Steely Dan song, and how there are places where you can actually make wagers on how many people will be killed in Black Friday fracases versus how many people will die in shark attacks.  Hey, why not?  It turns out that, by some counts, you’re more likely to die in a Black Friday fistfight with some turkey and stuffing-stoked Mom in the aisle of an electronics store than in the jaws of a Great White.

This year, instead of shaking my head in disbelief at the antics of crazed shoppers on Black Friday, I’m going to celebrate the mania>  But my personal celebration won’t involve heading out to the stores.  Instead, I’ll revel in the footage of shoppers throwing haymakers as just another thing that makes America great.

Crucial Warnings

For those of you unfortunates who are out shopping on this Black Friday, a reminder to pay careful attention to the warnings on the shopping cart seat. Kids can fall out of shopping carts, you know. If you’re shopping with a young child, be sure to buckle her in securely. Oh, and don’t leave the child alone in the cart while you trot off to pick up the latest blue light special.

I don’t remember there being such warnings on the shopping cart seat when Richard and Russell were little, but apparently retailers now think parents need to be reminded not to abandon toddlers who are sitting in shopping carts. I’m a bit surprised, therefore, that other similarly obvious warnings aren’t also imprinted on the seat. Like, “don’t engage in shopping cart demolition derby with other shoppers.” Or, “don’t let your child stand up and dance on the plastic seat while the cart is in motion.” Or, “don’t place that set of razor-sharp ginzu knives in the seat area within easy reach of your child.”

You’d think these warnings would be unnecessary, but perhaps for people who are willing to risk shopping on Black Friday with a youngster a little reminder about the basics can’t hurt.

When Black Friday Comes

Black Friday can bite me.

I’m tired of hearing about it, tired of the spectacle of grown people embarrassing themselves and acting like idiots to try to get the latest hot toy or specially priced flat-screen TV that will only be available to the first 50 customers, and tired of the talking heads talking, talking, talking about how important Black Friday is to the health of our economy and its retail sector.

Go out and buy, buy, buy!  Curse the lack of parking!  Groan when you see the length of the check-out line!  Feel the surge of anger when some jerk cuts in front of you or blocks the aisle or doesn’t watch their bratty kid who is knocking items off the shelves!

So today you won’t find me at the shopping malls.  When I think of Black Friday, I think of the classic tune from Steely Dan’s Katy Lied, performed live below in 2006.  My favorite lyrics from the song have a certain resonance on Black Friday, the dreaded shopping day:

When Black Friday comes
I’m gonna dig myself a hole
Gonna lay down in it ’til
I satisfy my soul
Gonna let the world pass by me
The Archbishop’s gonna sanctify me
And if he don’t come across
I’m gonna let it roll

Black Friday (With Steely Dan)

It’s Black Friday, the day when retailers have big sales and the news media will report on American shoppers getting into fistfights and trampling fellow citizens into the dust in their ludicrous zeal to get the advertised deals.

I hate shopping generally, and Black Friday sounds especially horrible.  So, today I’ll be staying as far away from the shopping as I can, and listening to Steely Dan’s take on Black Friday to further improve my mood.

When Black Friday comes
I’m gonna dig myself a hole
Gonna lay down in it ’til
I satisfy my soul  

Black Friday Showdown: “Occupiers” Versus Shoppers

According to news reports, some “Occupy” protesters are calling for “occupation” of outlets of large, publicly traded retailers — that is, virtually every store found in America — tomorrow.  If it happens, it would set up a monumental clash of the titans on the biggest shopping day of the year:

Ladies and gentlemen:  Welcome to the Black Friday throw down!

In this corner, a ragtag band of “Occupy Wall Street” protesters with a bad case of “bed head.”  They’re scruffy, angry, and utterly convinced of the righteousness of their cause. 

And in this corner, legions of amped-up holiday shoppers.  They’ve been up for hours, they’ve chugged gallons of black coffee, and they’re gunning to get all of their holiday shopping done in one stressful 18-hour period. 

The contest has begun!  The Occupy protesters have blocked the door to the Wal-Mart!  They’re doing their annoying human microphone shtick and trying to explain why large corporations suck.

 But the shoppers aren’t listening!  They’ve formed a flying wedge of shopping carts handled by angry plus-sized women who want to take advantage of the big Black Friday sales!  They’re ramming the Occupy protesters.  Wait just a minute!  Some of the shoppers have fainted from that special “Occupy” odor!  And the “Occupiers” are demanding free stuff from the shoppers!

Ladies and gentlemen, the confrontation has turned into a general melee.  The shoppers are clubbing the Occupy protesters with their heavy purses!  But now a phalanx of “Occupy” drummers has entered the fray!  Their loud, discordant drumming has momentarily stunned the shoppers!  Hold on a moment — the shoppers have regrouped!  They’re slashing at the Occupy protesters with the edges of their credit cards, and the Occupy protesters are giving way . . . .

If the “Occupy” protesters follow through with a Black Friday attempt to occupy stores, I’m betting on the shoppers.

Black Friday

I’m not quite sure when the day after Thanksgiving started to be called Black Friday — apparently because, for many stores, their sales on that day are what first pushes their year into the black — but I know that the day after Thanksgiving has been the unofficial start of the Christmas shopping season for decades.  It has now become institutionalized — there is even a website the features only Black Friday ads.

I imagine that this year Black Friday is getting even more attention than usual.  Economists, analysts, and forecasters will want to find out whether people are shopping at all, and if so where and for what.  In our consumer-driving economy, if Americans aren’t diving into the Christmas shopping season with gusto the talking heads will say it shows a “lack of consumer confidence” and signals a longer and perhaps deeper recession.  There is something to this line of reasoning.  You can do all the surveys you want about consumer confidence, but whether people actually spend money during the season of spending is the best, most tangible evidence of what they actually believe about their own circumstances.

It is 8 a.m. as I post this, and many stores have been open for hours already, hoping to lure shoppers with special deals.  For all I know analysts already are crunching numbers on the crowds that have shown up at stores.  They shouldn’t draw any conclusions from my behavior, however.  I don’t like shopping, and I think going to shop in crowded malls the day after Thanksgiving would be a very unpleasant experience, whether the economy is weak or going great guns.