We fell into the booth at IHOP with the weary air of soldiers just in from the front lines. Around us, the air hummed with frenetic, caffeine-fueled conversation and crinkled with the sound of riffling sales flyers as other Black Friday veterans, like us, stopped in to refuel before heading out in pursuit of the Next Great Deal.
Though I wish I could say that waking up at five a.m. to join the fray at local stores paid off in amazing savings, I have to be honest and admit that, of my morning’s two great triumphs, one turned out to still be available much later in the day and the other (a gift for Katie) I ended up returning because my Mom had bought the same one. Essentially, I could have slept in, just like the half of the country’s population that would rather stay home and give themselves emergency scalp stitches with a sewing needle than venture out of the house on Black Friday for any reason, including blood or fire.
Yes, I could have spent the morning relaxing. But then I would have missed all the fun!
I adore Black Friday. I love the crowds. I love the Christmas music playing in the stores. I love the thrill of the hunt and the adrenaline rush of the capture. I love the cheerful camaraderie that springs up between total strangers standing in line in the freezing cold at 5:30 in the morning. I love turning over thoughts of my loved ones in my mind all day while I consider what gifts they might like.
This year was especially fun, thanks to my friend Kathy.
We’ve spent many Thanksgivings enjoying the friendship and feasting to be had at Steve and Kathy’s, laughing as we bustle around in the kitchen preparing food, sharing our blessings across the dining table, and playing games together. One of the traditions formed there finds us sitting at the table long after the dishes have been cleared away and the pie has been devoured, poring over the Everest-sized mountain of Black Friday ads from the Thursday paper, pen and notebook at the ready.
That’s when we map out The Strategy.
This year, we armed ourselves with cell phones (the better to share important sales information from across town), and agreed to meet late in the morning for breakfast to eat and swap war stories.
Stories like the check out line at Kohl’s that stretched all the way around the back of the store, making it nearly impossible to maneuver, let alone shop. I quickly decided I didn’t want anything badly enough to stand in that line for it.
Or like the gentleman in line in front of Kathy and her mother-in-law Peggy who secretly paid for their purchases as well as his own. “Just paying it forward,” he whispered to the cashier.
Or the bin of Webkinz Lil’Kinz at Walgreens surrounded by a cluster of grown men and women digging through like children at a candy store, ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the cuteness of tiny puppies and hippos and panda bears.
We swapped information about unexpected bargains and which stores had run out of sales merchandise, revising our plans over delicious plates of bacon and eggs and hashbrowns. And then, although we’d made our early morning forays solo, we joined forces to hit the last few stores, relaxed and revived.
Towards the end of the day, the first snow of the year showed up and I felt the Christmas season officially begin.
When I finally returned home to Paul late in the afternoon, I had a trunkful of adventures to share with him. He made all the appropriate noises of appreciation and didn’t even think to ask how much I spent until the next day.
As for me, I put the bags in my closet, sat down with my feet up, and reveled in the feeling of a day well-spent, thankful for the resources to buy gifts and even more thankful that I have friends and family to buy them for.
Now if only there were some pumpkin pie left, life would be just about perfect.