Black Friday, the Twilight Zone?

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Today is “Black Friday,” and if you are obsessed with snapping up one of a few 65-inch flat screens for $2, or happen to be an overachiever who likes to get those presents off to Minneapolis weeks ahead of St. Nick, chances are you are not sitting on your couch reading the Indy, ruminating over yesterday’s Thanksgiving feast or planning your left-over turkey sandwich complete with Grandma’s famous cranberry sauce like I am.

No, you are on the prowl for the deal of the century at the local mall or big-box retailer, and I laud you for your tenacity and, well, guts.

Somehow, just the name “Black Friday” gives me the willies.  I mean, I just spent a meaningful and delicious day of thanks with my family and friends that I will savor for days, and I am going roll out of my nice, warm, comfy bed at 4 a.m. for a day named “Black Friday”? Truly, it just seems like retailers could have come up with a more inspired brand position.  Something like “Ecstatic Friday” or “Fabulous Friday.” Even “Super Friday” I could stomach.  But “Black”? I don’t think so.

In an ironic twist of fate, as I am writing this, I swear if I didn’t just get an email from Amazon.com announcing that BF is actually starting this year on Monday!  I’m cracking up with the thought that we now have “BM.”  How apropos.

Our family never got in to the Black Friday tradition and it is yet another of the many things for which I am thankful. Typically, the Friday after turkey day my brother and I would head for the den, flop in front of the boob-tube in our jammies and watch the “Twilight Zone” marathon. We never tired of the episode reruns, especially the one where a young William Shatner completely freaks out on an airliner convinced he sees a winged-monkey outside messing with the plane’s engines.

I think my parents relished the peace and quiet, recovering from all the work of the previous day and, even better, our hiatus from arguing about whether we were going to use our limited TV time to watch “Get Smart” or “Bonanza.”

For us, BF meant unlimited access to television and turkey leftovers.  What could be better?  These days, little has changed with the exception that football games and intermittent Scrabble challenges reign supreme.

As I recall, the one time, the only time, our family ventured out to give Black Friday a try was when I was about 12 and we hit the jam-packed Glendale Galleria to see what all the fuss was about.

After my Dad had driven around the parking lot more than a few times muttering under his breath, we finally parked in the last rooftop space that hadn’t seen action since the previous year’s BF mall migration. As we made our way round and round to the roof, my brother joked, “Are we having fun yet?”

No response.

Cricket sounds filled the car, and I didn’t take it as a good sign.  I started to get nervous about this whole expedition and wracked my brain for an excuse to just skip it.

No luck.

By the time we actually walked in to the mall, it was clear to me that no one was, nor likely to be, having any fun thanks to the thronging masses, crying babies, squabbling couples and frazzled looking sales staff.

Merchandise in nearly every store was strewn hither and yon, and the whole spectacle just seemed to fall well below the normal behavior most regular Americans exhibit the other 364 shopping days of the year.

After 20 minutes of the charade, I was relieved when someone suggested that we go back to our usual “Twilight Zone” tradition with a stop at the Foster’s Freeze on the way home for good measure.  The day was saved, and to everyone’s relief the idea was immediately disqualified from discussion at future Thanksgiving gatherings.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m no Grinch when it comes to holiday shopping and I completely understand the economic importance to retailers of BF, and now BM for those of us who like to shop from the comfort of our own laptops. Having come from a family of retail business owners, I understand that sales, no matter how they come, are critical to keeping the lights on and a profit and loss sheet truly in the black.

So I am not dissing this uniquely American phenomenon, which impacts so many bottom lines, especially in today’s economy.  All I ask is that no one gets trampled to death this year trying to buy the latest and greatest gadget that will be outdated or back on sale by Jan. 1.

On a cheerier note, please join our publisher Tom Johnson, editor Roger Bloom, yours truly and our other fine Newport Beach Independent reporters, columnists and staff during the Corona del Mar Christmas Walk on Sunday, Dec. 5 for some holiday cheer at The Port Restaurant.  We’ll be on the front patio for a “meet and greet” from 2 to 3 p.m., just in time for the walk’s unofficial after-parties.

The Port is kitty-corner from the Indy’s office in CdM, south of PCH in the first block of Heliotrope.  They’ll be offering up some merry drink and food specials for all of us that work up a thirst during the walk.

Hope to see you there!

Newport Beach resident Lynn Selich is a weekly columnist with the NB Indy, associate publisher of Newport Beach magazine and society editor for both publications. She can be reached at [email protected]

 

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