Tis the season, and tomorrow is a day like no other.
The name "Black Friday" has always mystified me a little. It's supposed to be a positive reference - the day retailers move into the profitable "black" in the fiscal year - but usually days referred to in that fashion are associated with something terrible.
Black Tuesday, 1929, when the stock market crashed.
Or Black Monday. In 1987, it was another stock market crash. In the NFL, it's the Monday after the final Sunday of the season when coaches and general managers are fired and/or resign.
Then there's Soundgarden's "Fell on Black Days," which, while a great song, does not ring the glory tune of exuberant consumerism. "Sunspots have faded and now I'm doing time" - you won't be hearing those lyrics on the in-store Christmas playlist.
"Black Friday" is a great title, though, and plenty of people have applied it to horror/suspense movies, dark comedies and documentaries. (If you have 10 minutes to spare on a low-budget satire, "The Black Friday Games" on YouTube pokes fun at both insane shopping and "The Hunger Games.")
If you're braving the early morning crowds, more power to you. "May the savings be ever in your favor," as the satire says. Retailers, I hope you make lots of sales and have many employees earning money this holiday season.
But I will not be among the hordes storming the retail castles come Friday morning. I had my fill of feverus retailius many years ago while on a mission of altruism.
My brother, then a manager at a Toys R Us, had left for work sometime around 2 a.m. on Black Friday to be ready for a 4 a.m. opening. I stopped by about 7 a.m. with a muffin and some coffee, since my brother hadn't eaten breakfast. He was working a register; every lane had customers lined up, and the cashiers couldn't ring up people fast enough.
I'd spent some time stocking shelves at Toys R Us a few years beforehand, so innocently - for nostalgia's sake - I decided to stroll around the store and see what the fuss was all about.
It was a crazy scene. Grown-up adults, grabbing toys off of shelves, shoving through crowds. Lines to get into aisles. Shopping carts stacked back to back and side to side, to the point that movement was almost impossible. Tempers were on edge.
I tried to weave my way out, hoping to use my lack of a shopping cart as a maneuverability advantage. Just the opposite happened - I became the nexus of a shopping cart pile-up, and the people who had me trapped started snarling at me for blocking their paths to action figures or Barbies or whatever it is they wanted.
The good news is, there are lots of options for people like me who aren't the sport-shopping type. I used to be among those who bemoaned the ever-earlier openings that seeped from Friday into Thanksgiving; now, it seems, the market has spoken. We want the doorbusters, the week of cyber deals, the big retail bang to start off the Christmas/holiday/gift-giving season.
If you're out and about on Friday, be careful out there. And I'll see you at the after-Christmas sales.