Nothing good plays on the radio at 4 a.m. It’s too bad, because as I drive through town on my way to the mall, I could use some adrenaline-generating music.
No one ever suggests psyching yourself up for Black Friday with James Taylor. But after failing to find either ‘Final Countdown” or ‘Live to Win” on the air, I started singing Paul Stanley to myself and readied my spirit for the biggest shopping day of the year.
As crowds gathered around every department store in the country, cut-out coupons and the special circulars whispered the praises of capitalism in every ear.
Saving $150 on a flat-screen television? Heck yes. A few hours of sleep can be sacrificed for that. And REM cycles pale in necessity next to $100 off a MacBook.
Indeed, that’s kinda the point. Even as retailers struggle to stay competitive in an economically weak period, Black Friday provides some much-needed relief. The name currently implies a transition from stores being ‘in the red” to being ‘in the black.”
But the actual term derives, at least according to the accepted history, from the Philadelphia Police Department, whose officers coined the term because of traffic congestion and over-crowding problems.
For me, that’s all irrelevant. I just wanted the first season of ‘Dollhouse.”
Of course, from the get-go of Friday morning, I didn’t realize how much I wanted the Joss Whedon series until staring at it in Best Buy’s $14.99 bin.
Thankfully, some corporate executive sitting somewhere on some kind of obsidian throne, realized I didn’t know just what was best for me. I also apparently needed ‘Mad Men: Season Two.” That’s right, I’m a sucker for capitalism.
I used to think I was a worse person for indulging in Black Friday. It sounds like a cult, a drug or a really bad NBC show (like most of the ones they have). As I roamed through the mall at 4:30 a.m., though, watching everyone hustle and bustle from JCPenney to Old Navy to Sears and back, I enjoyed the collective experience. In a sense, it’s bigger than the presidential election.
In 2008, according to the National Retail Federation, at least 49 million Americans definitely planned on participating in Black Friday events, with another 79 million Americans planning on participating based on the deals offered together, that 128 million people surpasses the 121 million citizens that voted in the 2008 presidential election less than one month before Black Friday.
Yes, more Americans are willing to get out of bed at 4 a.m. and brave crowds and traffic, at some point, than drive to a local school and press a button.
I’m not judging in fact, this is an opportunity to be proactive! The U.S. Constitution hasn’t been amended in a little while, and it seems like a great moment to change the day of presidential elections to the fourth Friday in November. In order to get deals at the store, citizens would have to show proof of having voted. Had we done in this 2008 then another 7 million Americans would have voted the most successful (and appropriately titled) Black Friday ever.
But then again, there’s no need to politicize the day after Thanksgiving. Truthfully, Black Friday is the least pretentious celebration around we know why it happens, why we go and what we get out of it.
Even when standing out front of a Best Buy in the drizzling rain, there’s something almost magical about the moment. It’s capitalism at its best unity through spending. Maybe it’s not ideal, but it’s nice to see a nation that’s brought together through something other than tragedy, just once in a while.
Brenneman is a Take Five Scholar.