The Big Day - 11.30.98

I knew it would be a crazy thing to do, but last week I ventured out into the real world of stores and sales. Mind you, I didn't get up at 5am to scope out the deals or try to throw a flying body block at someone taking the last Furbie, but I was with my family and they wanted to get a few things at one of the many stores that was having a massive sale.

Even though I was in a town that I had never been in before, there was a noticible increase in traffic, especially for 10 in the morning on a weekday. Then again, this wasn't exactly a normal weekday. I'd read the papers and I knew from years past that the day after Thanksgiving is traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year. The majority of store usually have some kind of obligitory sale, and a good portion of that open their doors early (5am for the hardcore) for those people who don't feel like sleeping in after the big dinner on the previous day. I actually read in one paper that some stores do almost 50 percent of their business for the year in the four week period between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

On this particular morning, I could see it. People were driving even more frantically than usual, and I could hear automobile horns sounding every two blocks or so. Needless to say, I wasn't exactly stoked when my Mom wanted to stop at one of the largest chain stores in the nation, already known for its low prices. Once we had stopped, though, I decided to actually put my book down and venture outside the vehicle. It would be the only place that I went inside for the day, and I wanted to observe just how crazy people were acting for myself.

The normal and overflow lots were full of vehicles, so we ended up parking half on some grass with a load of other cars about 500 yards from the entrance. No sooner had I stepped around the side of the auto and starting walking down an aisle when an impatient driver honked at me. I turned around and viewed a driver that looked like they had just finished a 5 hour shopping frenzy, and didn't have much patience left. After starting to laugh, I decided to stifle myself. After all, this store did sell guns (hint, hint).

Upon stepping inside the store, a shopping cart hit my right ankle and the driver didn't even make a glance in my direction. They zipped off in the direction of a cheese and canned-meat gift basket while I straightened-up and strode off through the store.

The sounds of children yelling, intercom chatter, store background music, musical novelties, cash registers, squeaking cart wheels, and countless other noises all mingled together into a surround-sound din. After a few moments of walking down an aisle, I found a display that wasn't recieving much attention and propped myself up against it. At this point, I focused my senses a bit more and tried to pick out certain things that I wanted to hear.

The first of these was a green plastic wreath with a big red bow on it and eyes that opened and closed. Apparently, it also housed a motion detector, because the eyes would stay closed until someone walked within a close enough proximity to set it off. When this would happen, the eyes would pop open and it would loudly exclaim "Merry Christmas!" and bust into a digitized version of one of several classic Christmas songs. Usually, the person that had set it off would jump away a bit startled at the sudden movement and voice. Although this in itself was funny, I also chuckled at the fact that it looked like none of the horrible contraptions had sold.

The second thing that caught my attention was a couple kids playing an in-store video game demonstration. The two of them were engrossed in some sort of a racing game and they were yelling aloud at each other like their was no one else around to hear them. Although they were both about 12, and despite the fact that they were playing a game that automatically reset every 2 minutes, I could hear repeated chants of, "Who's the Man?" and "I own you!" After they unsuccessfully convinced their parents to buy the system for them, they left the display in defeat and let two other anxious kids step up to the task.

I started walking again, and this time I had a mission. Every year, there's one toy that seems to elicit more hype than any of the others combined, and this year it was an interactive stuffed animal/ creature named Furbie. Just to be a smart-ass, I walked over to the toy department and found an employee to talk to. I asked whether they still had any in the dumbest voice possible and was greeted with an exasperated, "We had 100 of them at 5am, and none of them at 5:05am." Drats, foiled again!

Still standing in the toy section, the noise became somewhat overwhelming again and I found my parents and told them that I was headed out the auto. It had been fun observing for awhile, but the incessant drone of it all had finally taken its toll. I decided to take the long way out, just for observations sake, and started walking.

While walking by the tool department, I looked over and saw a little girl, probably about age 3 or 4 (I'm bad with kids ages) sitting in a shopping cart. She struck me as cuter than the average child and was wearing a dress that looked nice, but probably wasn't very well suited for a day of shopping.

I slowed down my pace a bit and listened as she told her dad that she had to go to the bathroom. He was engrossed in a ratchet set or something of the other and didn't even seem to notice that she had spoke. Again, she told him that she had to go to the bathroom, and this time he slightly turned his head and said, "Jus wait a goddamn minute!"

I pretended to be looking at a display just across from them when I heard the little girl chime up again after a few seconds. I glanced in the direction and saw the father slam down whatever he was looking at and grab her by the shoulders. He picked her up slightly and straightened her up in the cart, somewhat slamming her down into place at the same time. While doing this he growled/said to her, "You'll go when I'm goddamn ready. You're starting to piss me off." He intoned it in a way that he probably thought only his daughter could hear, thinking that he was surrounded by a store of people merrily going about their business, without worrying about other people or their business.

Although it upset me, there really wasn't anything I could do, so I did the next best thing and made my way out of the store. I didn't focus on anything for the last hundred feet and everything became a happy, unknowing and uncaring drone again.

On the way out of the store, I saw something that actually brightened my spirits again. There was a younger man (probably just a little older than me) with a big box on the sidewalk in front of the store. Inside the box was four young puppies and he was giving them away for free to good homes. The guy who was giving them away wore a constant smile on his face as he watched countless children run up to the box and pet them, while trying at the same time to convince their parents how much they needed one. It was something nice to see after all mindless-ness that I had encountered inside.

Still, the overall bad feeling of the day crept up on me again and I thought that one of the puppies would probably get taken home to a place where it would be beaten by its owner. I'm not a pessimistic person, and I wasn't trying to bring myself down, but the overwhelming insensitivity of the day (which some people probably mark on their calendars) had simply slithered its way into my very attitude on everything.

After my parents came out of the store, we decided to skip further shopping for the day and headed out to the countryside. The weather was great and I could feel my bad attitude fading with every mile that we got away from the hoard of people. We drove down the road and into a national park and didn't see another vehicle on it for miles. I was fine again.

Then I remembered I still didn't have a Furbie.