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Some days are better left unshopped

Every couple of years I like to dust off this column and run it again. Apparently the sole Black Friday that I was a part of a few years back left quite an impact on me. Although many look forward to, and enjoy Black Friday, it is something I wish to steer clear of for the remainder of my life. And as yesterday was Black Friday, I can honestly say, “I dodged it again.” Hope you Enjoy!

On Friday, millions of shoppers across the nation awoke in the wee morning hours, organized their hit list, met up with their strategic attack team, prioritized their attack, took aim and marched forth with reckless abandon into the stores where they hope to save hundreds of dollars on their purchases during this Black Op shopping day.

Planning that had started weeks before the actual shopping day makes Black Friday sound kind of like a nationwide military operation. Yes, Black Friday has become a yearly event that many shoppers look forward to with high anticipation, some even more so than Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day themselves.

I have done my duty! Only once, as that was definitely enough for me.

My job as a member of the strategic attack team that very cold winter morning, “Guardian of the Shopping Cart!” I look back at that day and wonder why I said those easy-to-have-said-differently words: “Sure, I’ll go!” Well, I probably agreed to go because I had absolutely no clue of what I was getting myself into.

The location, Kingman, Arizona. The target, WalMart Shopping Center. It was 16 degrees outside as we waited in the heated comfort of our car at 4:28 a.m. We watched the line of people that stretched around the corner of the building waiting for the doors to open at 4:30 a.m. promptly! As I reached for the door handle to get out of the car my Commander in Chief (my wife) said, “Not yet, wait for it, wait for it…”. Apparently timing was everything.

Precisely at 4:30 a.m., the doors to our target swung open and I heard the word “NOW” yelled loudly. It was like a Chinese fire drill with all members of the SAT (strategic attack team) jumping from the car all simultaneously. Similarly, other SATs were jumping from their cars at the same time rushing toward the target. We all made it to the doors at the same time as the remaining population of Kingman, Arizona. I didn’t even know that many people lived in Kingman.

Well, as I was pushed through the doors from behind, I thought to myself, “Now is not the time to panic!” My team leader yelled to me, “Get TWO shopping carts!”

Normally, I would check to make sure I didn’t get the dud-shopping cart with the bad wheel. You know, the one that would always go left. But on this day, there was no time for that. I had to be sneaky fast.

OK, we had our carts. As my heart started to calm down, I proceeded to follow my team to the back corner of the store. In her very stern voice our second-in-command, my sister, told me to “Serve & Protect!” Huh?

As the rest of the team went forth onto the battlegrounds, returning every so often with items that I didn’t even know existed, I began to see the need for my position as “Guardian of the Shopping Cart.” Although a little nervous when other teams walked past my post and looked into “my” shopping carts, I stood strong and repositioned myself in front of the enemy. You know, those veterans of Black Friday that will do absolutely anything to get what they want.

Only once was I relieved of my post. My team needed my help picking up two 25-inch televisions from the electronics department. “OK, I can do this,” I thought to myself. I exited Home Base eventually making my way through the masses of people that filled each aisle to find my destination. After what seemed like an hour, I was excited to see the electronics department up ahead.

Once in, I picked up one of the TVs while another team member did the same. I lifted the TV over my head as I thought I would have more room to move around, but that was wrong. Once the TV was over my head the little space that was created by this move was eliminated by other people with shopping carts.

“Don’t panic,” I thought to myself. I stood there, waiting for a break in the never-ending sea of people so I could start the long trip back to my post. But that break never came. The only way I was going to make it back to base safely was to become the aggressor, so I told my team member to get ready. They needed to be right behind me when I made my move. We were only going to have one shot at this, so I stepped forward into the battle zone creating an opening for my team member and myself. We rode the wave of people through the aisles with TVs above our heads finally making it safely back to home base. “Whew” I said as I whipped sweat from my forehead. We made it!

Throughout the morning, this scenario repeated itself at the four other shopping locations that we shopped. In the end, although tired, I proved myself battleworthy to myself and to my team on this Black Op Friday. They could depend on me!

After the day was over and the rest of the team was reenergizing themselves with a well-needed nap, I reflected upon this very strange day and ultimately decided it was time to retire from the ranks of the Black Friday SAT. This honor of being a veteran of the biggest shopping day of the year needs to stay with those who want it, not those who would rather be preparing to watch football games later in the day.

And as for yesterday? Lucky for me, I was far away from the clashes of the Black Friday battles. I was tucked in my warm bed, not setting the alarm for 3:30 a.m. and sleeping in for the first time in quite a while.

For my commander in chief, it was a much different story. She will suffer from withdrawals of missing her first Black Friday in years. She may have risen at 3:30 a.m., standing at the bedroom door, saying “Open, open, open!” I have earplugs.

Rich Macke is publisher of The Port Arthur News.