If you asked me what possibly could have compelled me to stay up until five in the morning to trudge through Cambridge for a Black Friday sale, I would have given you exactly two reasons. One is the age-old excuse, “my friends were doing it.” The other is that I managed to justify it to my nerd self by going to the electronics store first. A few DVDs, a set of Rock’em Sock’em Robots, and more self-restraint than any human should ever have to exercise later, here I am pondering the significance of the experience.
For those of you who weren’t here, the weather on Black Friday featured the trademark Boston drizzle — just wet enough to be irritating, but not nearly downpour-like enough to reenact dramatic film moments. (This gave birth to my draft proposal to rename “Black Friday” to “Black Next-Post-Thanksgiving-Fair-Weather-Day,” which would also include a one-day Daylight Super-Saving 5-hour clock shift.)
Bearing in mind that Black Friday has been getting somewhat less civil from year to year, I showed up expecting virtually anything to happen, ranging from a one-on-one sword duel to the death over the last copy of Lego Rock Band (the concept of which still boggles my mind, by the way) to a full-on brawl breaking out in the martial arts section of the home entertainment department, complete with faux kung fu, between the Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee fans.
As it happened, the lines outside the mall were actually surprisingly docile, partly due to the aforementioned five in the morning, partly the dampening effect of the rain, and mostly the armed security at the door. Besides which, it may also be that the videogame-playing, film-watching crowd outside Best Buy isn’t as inclined to physical violence as the crowd outside, say, the sporting goods store, no matter how ravenous for heavily-discounted box sets they may be. (To be fair, I bought one, too, and the deal was good enough that I wouldn’t have been surprised at some harsh language, or at least a hand gesture or two.)
I typically prefer to shop for electronics retail and clothes secondhand, but considering that my shopping companions had somewhat higher (and cleaner) standards for clothing, I was specially selected to fill the time-honored position of bag-holder. (That’s shopping bags, mind you, not purses. Really, I swear.) I’d like to believe that I approached this hallowed responsibility with reverence and respect, but distinctly recalling that I equated “time spent holding bags” to “time available for napping,” I’ll probably have trouble selling that, even to myself. In my defense, I did perk up later on — toy stores have a way of providing a second wind. One requires quite a bit of energy to properly grovel to be allowed in. Only to browse. Just for a minute.
There’s a lot to be said for nostalgia — I suspect it accounts for a large part of toy purchases in cases where the box says “Ages 6 and up” but the customer is over 20. I can’t imagine that I’m the only one with a weakness for childish fun. For one thing, the simplest pleasures in life are often the most universal. For another, there are dozens of Facebook groups and hundreds of online anecdotes (a fraction not written by actual children) to the same effect. There are innumerable other people my age and older with a craving for Nerf guns and a senior-citizen-like disdain for newfangled, overcompensatory, semi-automatic weapons of foam dart warfare, I’m sure of it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I really should get going. Apparently, Rock’em Sock’em Robots requires adult assembly, which means I need to find a grown-up before the knocking-off of blocks can commence.