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Black Friday War Journal 2009

Posted by NumberSix , 27 November 2009 · 350 views

NumberSix Black Friday war journal, Third annual entry:

Via Lord's grace on number of fronts, previous year's debts and obstacles largely eliminated. With funding in place, limits now are product availability and suitability, and own conscience. To certain extent, limit = sky. Primary want-list objective : new TV. Specific requirements: 1080p, 120 hz, 32-inch or more, some inputs, under $800; all other qualities negotiable. Secondary objective: DVD-recorder to replace failed model. Optional objectives: portable DVD players (assorted brands advertised at multiple stores for $50), turntable, cheap DVDs, possibly winter clothing, presents for son.

0300: Alarm clock sounds on schedule, still too soon for mortal comfort. Slowly gather self and accoutrements together, nuke Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwich for launch fuel; exit home, enter consumer wilderness. First several miles are all ghost town highways. Encouraging sign. More cowards means less competition.

Turn on Christmas radio station. Collusion of fatigue and isolation induce quasi-hallucinatory compulsion to improve carols with various effects -- e.g., operatic vocals, falsettos, beatbox. Beach Boys' ubiquitous "Little Saint Nick" reverberates through car for umpteenth time this month. Summertime bands plus wintertime melodies incongruous combination in first place. Repetition not helping.

Drive past Wal*Mart on US 31 South, lot already full from insane third-shift shoppers. Reminded of old metaphor of consumers as zombies. Hoary yet apt.

0345: Reach Greenwood Park Mall, join line outside Sears on northeast end of mall. Neglected to dress for 32-degree chill. Only one thing would provide warmth now: braaaiiinsss.

0357: Charitable Sears staff unlocks doors fractionally early. Navigate past clutter, competition, and employee sentries to Electronics department. All doorbuster TVs are strapped down or bundled to other TVs. Acquisition requires joining lengthy register line, eventually reach cashier, ask for specific TV to be freed. System not unlike pet shops, except TVs pose no immediate flight risk when set out free-range. Problem topped by equally disconcerting problem: refresh rates listed on neither displays nor boxes. Full TV selection rejected in broad, bitter stroke. Portable DVD players likewise bundled together in pairs. Obvious solution: bring pair of players to register, wait forever, force cashier to unlock, stick cashier with surplus player. Solution rejected; not yet in mood for games. Exit Sears empty-handed.

0420: Drive to HH Gregg across street from north end of mall. Previous HH Gregg encounters characterized by high prices and one arguable instance of attempted bait-and-switch. Doorbuster prices this time are reasonable, acceptable. Drawback: no refresh rates listed on doorbuster models, but listed on high-end non-sale models. DVD recorders not priced to move. Assume all doorbusters are 60 Hz; exit empty-handed.

0440: Drive near Best Buy south of mall. Line outside circles around building. Depart without even parking.

0445: Drive to Toys R Us northwest of mall. Brief stop to browse action figures. Tempted by Kingdom Hearts HalloweenTown Sora figure and line of 9 figures. Also locate $50 portable DVD players. Line to registers snakes throughout store, into undiscovered pocket-dimensional infinity. Exit empty-handed.

0510: Drive to Target several miles southwest of mall. Forced to park behind store, next to employees and semis. Electronics section is agoraphobe's worst nightmare, stacked with bodies clamoring unheeded for assistance. After several minutes of vain searching, track down employee with map. Obtain directions to portable DVD player stash, located on other side of store in Infants section. Naturally. Electronics section inadequate for containing electronics. Management's solution: create scavenger hunt, exhaust customers as punishment for having money to spend. Former location of players is barren, save for paper doorbuster sign lying on carpet.

Acquired: six-dollar copies of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa and Wanted. Movies about animals, priced for animals to buy. Spend 25 minutes in line. Line looks staggering because of multiple carts. Moves deceptively fast. Carts take less time to ring up when filled with 3-4 large boxes rather than 15-20 clothing items. Bide time by reading 35 pages of Goodwill paperback copy of Close Encounters of the Third Kind novelization. Always bring worn used book; new books risk false shoplifting accusations.

0615: Stop at Meijer northwest of Target on way back to mall. Ghost town inside, no lines at registers. Alleged doorbuster items nowhere in sight. Fellow customer tries to be helpful, offers directions to rumored BluRay trove in Sporting Goods department. Naturally. BluRay player originally an optional objective, removed from consideration. Previously acquired PS3 weeks prior as son's primary Christmas gift. May reconsider in future. Not today. Not from Meijer.

PA system announces limited supply of 1080p TVs still available in Deli department. Naturally. Saunter to Toys, peruse old action figures. Meander to Deli on other side of store, watch customers wheel away last two TVs. Exit empty-handed.

0640: Return to Best Buy south of mall. No line outside. One abandoned tent on sidewalk. Inside store chaotic as expected.

Acquired: Combination DVD recorder/VCR/digital tuner with DVD upconversion option. May be sufficient to replace 3-4 underperforming devices at home. Spend several minutes perusing TVs. Find two viable options; no way to carry recorder and cumbersome TV. Leave TV behind, note for possible later reference. Spend 30 minutes in line behind a grandma, who at one point stops to test-drive an XBox 360 soccer game because picture is pretty. Large plasma TV ideal for displaying vast Brazilian soccer field surrounded by stacked mountainside housing, just like in Incredible Hulk. Grandma is correct; picture is pretty.

Also acquired: Four-dollar copy of Casino Royale; stocking stuffers for son -- Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children on BluRay and Breaking Benjamin's Dear Agony. Both found during wait in line. Latter was an optional objective; former was impulse buy based on comic shop demo enjoyed years ago.

0730: Wasted after spending 30 minutes in line carrying heavy player. Declare break time, drive to Panera Bread south of Best Buy. Most direct turnoff barricaded; navigation requires driving past Panera, turning south on US 31 (accompanied by another rerun of "Little Saint Nick"), driving to next stoplight blocks away, driving through Goodwill parking lot and next two adjacent lots, then reaching Panera. Customer population is 95% women in groups. Weird, slightly awkward, alienating.

0755: Drive to Half Price Books west of mall. Sale: all items 20% off before 10 a.m. Remember to remove Close Encounters from pocket before entering store filled with worn used books. Neglect to return book to pocket for remainder of day.

Acquired: Jill Thompson's Little Endless Storybook and Ultimate Spider-Man, vol. 9: Ultimate Six.

0815: Nearly drive past GameStop at opposite end of strip mall from Half Price Books. Park suddenly. Acquired: $40 sale copy of Batman: Arkham Asylum for son's Christmas. Outside, windshield wiper now obstructed by hair salon flyer. Not in mood to pretty up.

0825: Drive to JCPenney on west end of mall. All adjacent spaces full; park on far side of Barnes and Noble on northwest corner of mall. Doorbuster men's shirts in two categories: cheap and ugly, or stylish and not-cheap-enough. Acquired: black-and-white Marvel T-shirt, New Avengers and Fantastic Four drawn by Leinil Yu. Sale price same as two issues of New Avengers.

During walk through departments, unknown random percussive sound evokes split-second recall of Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend", somehow inserts song into head on endless loop. Not happy. Exorcised with Christmas radio upon return to car.

0910: Drive miles north on US 31 to Wal*Mart. Trapped behind slow traffic, exit US 31 half-mile before store, drive rest of way entirely through other stores' parking lots. Remaining doorbuster DVD selection uninspiring. TV section devastated. Shelves for boxes all empty, only display models remain. Exit empty-handed, slightly panicked. Five hours after leaving home, primary objective still incomplete, signs discouraging. If Wal*Mart is out of TVs, what chance have other, less gargantuan retailers?

0930: Drive miles back to Best Buy south of mall. Yes, third time same day. Yes, clearly losing it. Yes, shut up. While stopped at red light at US 31 and County Line Road, open window and offer change to foreign lady carrying white bucket with label reading "INTERNATIONAL" something-or-other. Presumably for reputable charity, not for pancake houses. Unable to verify accuracy of assumption.

Spend fifteen minutes searching for parking space. Best Buy lot is full of cars both parked and wandering. Adjacent mall lot is nearly full. Finally find cache of empty spaces past easternmost end of mall, overflow lot behind lot belonging to Sears Auto Center. Walk roughly three blocks to Best Buy, Frogger-style through heavy parking-lot traffic.

Best Buy aisles less congested. Register lines barely shorter than before. Return to TV department, find acceptable TV: Panasonic, 1080p, 120 Hz, 3 HDMI inputs, $700. Grab box immediately below display item. Wait in line 20 minutes, pushing box along floor with foot. Reach register, lift box up to counter. On reverse side, staring back in large white font are numbers "720". Not 1080.

Deduction: TVs stored under display item were same manufacturer, different model. Trade sheepish grins with cashier, lug heavy TV to back of store, return to shelf. Search all nearby shelves in vain. Display item not in stock on floor. Turn to runner-up TV selection: Insignia, 1080p, 120 Hz, 5 HDMI inputs, $600. Grab box immediately below display item. Same resolution; different model number. Return to shelf. Bitter again.

Search rest of store one last time for possible overlooked options. Several frustrated minutes later, walk past stack of 15-20 Insignia TVs, all 720p resolution...except one on far end. Memorize model number. Return to TV aisle and previous candidate. Model number matches. Return to lone 1080p Insignia TV. Grab, rejoin line. Wait 20 more minutes, finally pay and exit. TV acquired.

Spend eternity carrying heavy TV three blocks back to car. Sometimes carrying, sometimes dragging, periodic rest stops punctuated by quips from passersby. History of back problems complicate matters. After flesh surrenders and refuses to move one more inch, try imagining Jillian Michaels standing behind and bellowing, "MOOOOOOOVE!" Almost works. Instead, imagine abandoning TV and bringing car to it instead. Likelihood of theft instills renewed sense of purpose and one last boost of strength.

1040: Reach car, insert TV. Odds of theft discourage any notion of making additional stops at other stores. Also, back and limbs in state of agony.

1115: Return home. Chug ibuprofen cocktail. Slowly remove shopping plunder from car. Wife asleep on couch after her own Black Friday travails. Son watching TV as escapism from senseless bargain-minded adults. Wife awakens. Swap war stories.

1225: Impromptu trip to Texas Roadhouse near home for massive protein infusion to augment ibuprofen healing process. Wife less damaged, offers to drive. Tables less than half full. Son complains about overhead country/western Christmas Muzak.

1340: Drive to neighborhood Wal*Mart down the street. Acquired: HDMI cable, TV stand, groceries.

1430: Drive back home, plagued by third replay of "Little Saint Nick", followed by two-hour recuperative nap.

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