Let’s talk about mine and Dan B’s little Black Friday Eve excursion.

I know, I know. For as cynical as we both are, we’re the last people that should be attempting a sojourn on the busiest shopping evening of the year. Dan, however, really wanted to go and get a TV that Walmart was heavily advertising over the past week. He’s one of those people, unlike myself, that actually watches things like television shows and films and cares about picture quality, yet he’s been sitting on the same twenty-inch piece of crap for the last fifteen years. Seriously, you have to see this thing. It looks like the monitor for a Tandy.

I agreed to go because I needed to return shorts. A few weeks ago I grabbed a couple workout shorts that I thought were both Medium, but one was actually an XL. Oh, and moral support and my friend and companionship and blah blah. Basically the whole trip amounted to going just so we can get a first-hand account of how much we hate this bullshit.

We arrived at the Walmart—

Wait, you know what? I want you to feel mine and Dan’s aggravation towards both the ridiculousness of promoting crass consumerism on the evening of Thanksgiving and the people and things we saw there. So I’m going to go ahead and call it Wal-Marts, just to piss you off. You’ll feel like you were there!

We arrived at the Wal-Marts and immediately Dan says “this isn’t bad.” I can only guess that he was expecting random fires and gangs with post-apocalyptic mohawks and jackets with the sleeves cut off pulling knives on old ladies. But still, it was mobbed.

We went to the entrance and were greeted with “OTHER SIDE, PLEASE.” It was said to us in the tone of “WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU, YOU STUPIDS.” Yet, how would we know which side had been designated as the entrance and the other as an exit? There were no signs, usually both sides serve as both entrances and exits, and because Wal-Marts had already been open for two hours, there was nobody outside. Nothing would indicate to us that it was not okay to go in the door we were trying to enter. And, in fact, no reason for us not to.

We heeded the aggressive tone of the employee and snaked our way through a comically unnecessary and complicated series of metal barricades. Dan made the comment that it was some TSA level shit. We should’ve brought a slightly darker skinned friend with me to see if we got stopped and harangued to complete the metaphor.

There were staff everywhere. I’m sorry – “Event Staff.” Because these weren’t just Wal-Marts staff, you see, but “Event Staff.” This is what it said on their bright yellow vests that they wore. Are these Wal-Marts employees? Or are they just staff brought on for this specific “Event”? Or are they mercenaries?

I went to customer service to exchange my shorts. Stood in line for twenty seconds, got rung out, was given the card with the six dollars and change on it. Boom. Done.

Then we went into the store proper. There were people just standing with empty carts, staring around the store as if they’d never seen such sights in their entire lives. A complicated system had been set up to create a line that, we eventually realized, went the entire length of the store and then looped around. That doesn’t count all the people that were still milling about and waiting for midnight sales.

After seeing that the television he wanted might not even be there and the line that awaited us, Dan exasperatedly announced that he was through.

We walked out and complained the entire way out. It was an incredible waste of time. “I can’t believe I got out of bed for this,” I said, then immediately felt a tinge of embarrassment at how incredibly depressing it sounded.

I could see myself maybe – MAYBE – doing this if I had children and there was something very specific that I knew would be available. But I just can’t wrap my head around people that willingly and enthusiastically partake in this meaningless display of self-parody. I think what annoyed me more than anything about the trip was seeing that there were tons of people just buying things for themselves; things that they don’t need. Is it really saving money if you wouldn’t have spent it in the first place? No, but that’s the black magic of marketing and retail, which perpetuates the cycle that has obliterated this country’s economy the last few decades. The problem has been for some time that we don’t make anything anymore, but rather live and die on an economic system based on retail and credit, with innovations few and far between. And for all the talk about how things need to change, we’re first in line at 10:00pm on Thanksgiving night to buy shit we don’t need with money we don’t have that will go to people that don’t need it.

But at least I got six bucks and change on a card that I can use to buy workout shorts that fit me. God bless America.

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