I grew up in an era where there were only a handful of logical explanations for getting up in the middle of the night: 1) your need to vomit 2) the house was on fire (or the burglar alarm went off) or 3) your father was too cheap to buy (nonstop) plane tickets for flights that left at a reasonable hour. If you came from that address, you were forced to flee the house by 4 am to catch a flight that departed at 8:37 from a city that was a two and a half hour drive away. All this to save $39.
We did not wake up to go shopping. Anywhere. For anything. Ever.
I'm not quite sure when or where this phenomenon of setting your alarm at some ungodly hour to go trolling for deals for crap you don't really need began. I'm not even sure I want to know who started it. Worse yet, the incentive to go camping in a parking lot to be first in line for an electronic of any kind (for the record, I can't think of a single incentive to go camping anywhere at all) has about as much appeal to me as volunteering for rectal surgery and root canal without the benefit of drugs of any kind. But from the looks of it, this ridiculous trend doesn't seem like it will go the way of elephant bells, Farrah hair, leisure suits or Faith Popcorn. Remember her? I wonder if she predicted that she wouldn't be trending now.
Did I mention that the middle of the night is reserved for things like sleeping (or if you are really lucky, canoodling) and forgetting about things like spending money, leisure suits and Faith Popcorn?
So forgive me if I don't get all warm and fuzzy about the concept of surrendering five or six hours of perfectly good shut-eye for the opportunity to be one of the first people to bust down a perfectly good door for the sake of owning (insert your own must-have item here) at a price I will likely be able to find about five weeks from now when retailers are crying the post- Christmas blues. I can wait. Nothing screams, "Bargain" better than buyer's credit card (interest) remorse. I'm banking on it. EBay is my friend.
You would think that after what we've been through over the past few years we would have maybe, just maybe gotten a little bit smarter after our collective assets were bitten by the economy. But no, we still keep playing into the same hands that really never feed us. Those hands are called, "Greed". The only thing this shopping gimmick proves is that we can't seem to wash ourselves of it if we are still showing up at the stroke of midnight in the name of a good discount. As Gordon Gecko once taught us in the 80's, "Greed is good". Good help us.
I'm probably going to start to sound like an old fart when I begin questioning why in the hell we think it might be a good idea to perpetuate this idea of shopping in the middle of the night for something we couldn't possibly live without until 3 the following afternoon. Forgive me, but not too long ago, stores were open and closed for a reasonable number of hours and we all lived through those dark ages. Nobody died because of the insane retail schedule or the lack of the presence of a "greeter" (take that Walmart) and nobody considered it normal or lined up for anything other than tickets to a good rock concert.
Back in the stoned ages, we could go cold turkey from shopping for 24 hours, sit out the Thanksgiving holiday and do we what we do best in this country - eat until we spontaneously combust, watch TV and sleep on the first set of excess holiday calories that creep up our butts and stick to us for the rest of the winter or posterity, whichever lasts longer. That's the holiday spirit!
Nobody can convince me that on Black (or any other) Friday there is a single item worth fighting, scratching, Jonesing over and getting black and blue to own. Shopping should not be a sport that ends up being one that's to die for. And the very last thing I want to see written on my death certificate is, "Cause of Death: Walmart." The place has kind of killed a part of the American dream already, hasn't it?
Follow Patricia Aranka Smith on Twitter: www.twitter.com/nonconfromist