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It's the time of year where the hunters and gatherers are mentally preparing, scouting their territory and checking their credit card balances. I'm not talking about deer hunting. I'm referring to Black Friday shoppers. Earlier and earlier every year the retail stores leak bargains that can only take place at predawn and electronic deals worthy of a stampede. Tis the season.
In anticipation of the shopping season I have some unsolicited advice I'd like to give.
First, leave your kids at home. Not alone. Just don't bring them with you. A). it is ill-advised to allow them to see your mind go numb with such toxic consumerism and B). they're just going to get in your way anyway. Then you'll be crabby and yell at them and really none of it is their fault. They should be home in bed anyway.
Secondly, don't use a cart unless you have to. It will only slow you down. And you could run over somebody's ankle which is painful. They might be carrying a weapon and really no gift is worth dying for (although I was super glad in the Christmas of '83 when my Dad knocked down an old lady for the last Cabbage Patch doll in the great St. Louis area). I don't know remember the doll's name or where she is now but it sure was worth it twenty three years ago!
It's also bad form to drink alcohol while shopping. It is after all, generally a bad idea to stand outside in the middle of the night in a dark parking lot but to do so with alcohol induced, sleep deprived stay at home moms is off the chart dangerous. And lest you think I'm making that up I'm not. I watched a gang of women outside a Wal-Mart one year share the same flask for over an hour.
Yes, I've shopped on Black Friday.
In case you too are planning to engage in a Black Friday shopping frenzy, please, for the love of everything holiday, have a plan before you cross the threshold of the store's automatic sliding doors. Three a.m. is not the time to window shop. If you don't know exactly what you want please stay at home in bed because you'll probably get hurt. Or in a fight. And really, when you're coming off the Thanksgiving holiday (you know the day we all gather around a feast and hold hands and proclaim our profound gratitude) it's kind of a downer to kick start the holiday season from inside an E.R. Or a holding cell.
It is also important to note that not all items advertised will be in their logical location inside the store. I once came across a pallet of untouched flat screen TVs in the men's apparel department. Many stores try to thin out the stampede by moving hot ticket items to various corners of the store. So if you have your eye on something specific make haste to that department but if you can't find what you are looking for keep moving. Heaven forbid you stop and ask an employee. Instead (and since you choose to shop without a cart) you can keep moving, maneuvering through lingerie and effectively cutting off the majority of the clueless crowd. Of course you don't know exactly where you're going but move with the stampede. Surely you'll stumble across a deal somewhere in the store.
Lastly be kind to the employees. Most of them are temporary, seasonal workers who are choosing to ring up your greed rather than sleep so they can afford to buy their loved ones presents not on Black Friday but after they receive their minimum wage paycheck. If the scanner doesn't work right it's more likely a computer glitch than user error. If they don't move fast enough it's probably because they are sober and exhausted, not high on adrenaline. Please don't let basic human kindness get swallowed up in the rush of "an unbelievable deal!".
It is the most wonderful time of the year! Don't allow the temporary exhilaration of consumerism to overshadow the real meaning behind the season. Sure giving gifts we purchased at rock bottom prices makes us feel savvy but the solitary act of sacrificially giving to our cherished ones is the best feeling of all. Be careful not to loose sight of that the next time you're elbowing your way through the crowd. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why!
(This article originally appeared in the Monmouth Daily Review Atlas as a part of my Practical Parenting series)