Black & Blue Friday

The day after Thanksgiving is the one day each year when my usual temper is all but absent for the thrill of people-watching, deal-grabbing, and account-draining activities. The woman who loosed her cart upon me in Walmart? I’m sure it was full of toys for orphans. The patrons who scoffed at the lines in Target? Starry-eyed amateurs. Tomorrow they’ll be bitches all, but today I’ve acquired Dutch ovens and all three seasons of The Big Bang Theory on DVD and stories, besides.

I have a theory for why, when I rarely wish to bust down any doors – or, as aforementioned, faces – I love to shop on Black Friday. When I was a kid my parents used to cart my brother and I to the flea market on Sundays in the summertime to buy and sell, though the latter required early and absurd hours to get a whole family together and into my dad’s work truck. Mom would bundle us into shorts and t-shirts and then sweats and jackets, and there was something absolutely magical about the drive and the market in the wee hours, the prospect of spending my allowance on pogs or selling enough of my unwanted plastic costume jewelry to buy someone else’s unwanted plastic costume jewelry. I spotted a rabbit once in the early morning mist and descending into the Ferguson flea market – which used to be a drive-in and is now, ironically, the site of a Walmart – was a bit like tumbling down some sort of second-hand rabbit hole.

My brother and I would sit behind the table with our stuff, eating chocolate donuts out of little packages and drinking milk from paper cartons and fairly bouncing out of our plastic lawn chairs for the opportunity to look and poke and covet everything. Shopping was disorderly and it was social. Contemporary flea markets, like department stores, are just too damn clean and there’s too much mass-produced junk instead of what somebody raked out of their basement or attic and just wants gone for a dollar or best offer. Digging through a bin of half-nude Barbie dolls or Guess jeans and coolats was the closest I had ever come to treasure hunting, and I’m still of a mind that finding that one perfect, dirt-cheap thing is a purchase pre-ordained. First-world problem? For sure and trust me, I’ll be ashamed tomorrow.

Maybe I’m nursing a coffee instead of whole milk, but it feels the same now as it did then. I love getting up early and getting lost in it. There’s nothing classy about shopping on Black Friday, and I don’t want there to be. I mean, I was raised in a sophisticated kind of style, and celebrating that once a year is not such a sorry thing.

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