But this year was different. "Let's do something we've never done before," I said to my daughter. "Let's dive into the chaos that is Black Friday." After all, how could we call ourselves real shoppers if we didn't do shopping extreme?
She said, "Oooh, sounds like fun."
"What are we shopping for?" she asked.
"Whatever. I'm looking for chaos," I said, displaying my bravado.
We set off in search of the perfect Black Friday experience. Of course, it was after lunch before we made our fateful decision, so needless to say, much of the hysteria of the midnight grab had already passed. But surely the shopping centers and malls were still brimming with frenzied Christmas shoppers. Right?
At the first center of American consumerism, I found a parking spot three spaces from the door of JC Penney. This couldn't be right. No, surely I should have to park in the next state. To our dismay, the aisles were passable. People were courteous. Merchandise was properly folded instead of laying on the floor. What was this?
"This won't do," I told my offspring. "We must continue our quest for shopping madness."
We didn't find it at the shoe store two doors down, so we moved on to the mall in the middle of town. Once again, I parked too close to the door to make the experience authentic. The mall was busy, but I'd seen it busier. The Saturday before Mother's Day. Before Easter. Heck, most Saturdays in fact. What was wrong? Where were the crazed buyers? Why was no one shoving me out of the way to get to that cute handbag before me?
In New York & Co., the clerk asked us if we were almost done Christmas shopping. My daughter and I laughed. "Oh no," I told her. "We shop on Black Friday for us!" We walked away with clothing and accessories we probably didn't need. But the forty percent discount was too deep to ignore.
Our trip to the mall in an adjacent town didn't meet our requirement either. By now, it was dark-thirty.
"I know," my daughter said. "Let's go to the toy store." I agreed, despite the fact there are no small children in our family any longer.
Just across the parking lot, the Toys R Us beckoned us like a beacon in the Blackness of that Friday. We had to park at the back of the lot.
"Yeah," I said. "This is more like it."
By the time we arrived, the store had that bedraggled look, like it'd been through hell and barely survived. Still, the shoppers were civil. Tempted to provoke a confrontation over something inane, I opened my mouth, but my daughter gave me that look. The one that discourages public humiliation--hers not mine.
I bought two sets of glass dominoes for my mother and my mother-in-law and left the scene.
"Black Friday is a bust," I announced.
My daughter nodded in agreement.
"Next year, let's got to Wal-Mart at midnight."
"Are you nuts?" she asked.
Maybe I am, but come next year, the day after Turkey Day, she'll be right there with me. Because she and I are expert shoppers, gold medal winners in shopping Olympics.
(c) Denise Moncrief 2011