Lileks: Black Friday and other maladies we mortals face

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 22, 2013 - 5:07 PM

I don't want to hear about the pardoned Thanksgiving Turkey anymore. One of these days he's going to go back to his old ways, embark on a three-state crime spree, and then we'll feel pretty stupid.

I also don't want to hear about Black Friday -- or, as we used to call it, Friday. It's "black" because retailers are lifted from the red side of the ledger and delivered unto the land of Profits, but you can't shake the other dire implications of the term, can you?

Imagine if the term was applied to other concepts:

The Black Death. It's the most value-oriented plague you've ever seen! Early symptoms include a rash, fever, enlarged coupons, bouts of chills up to 20 percent less than normal duration. Special "doorbuster" prices for the first 100 people to come through the store and collapse from systemic organ failure.

A Black Hole. Scientists say they're the densest objects in the universe, with gravity so strong it crushes the competition! First 100 people to enter the Event Horizon will appear to be suspended at that point in space for eternity, forever falling into a well of nothingness that could be a portal to another dimension, or just the luggage department.

In case you haven't noticed, Black Friday started earlier this week. Target had "Beat the Rush" signs up before Thanksgiving, which means that Black Friday has been pushed forward to Not Quite So Black Wednesday, and perhaps leaked into Charcoal Gray Tuesday. If there wasn't the firewall of Halloween at the end of October, Christmas would leak into September.

No use complaining: That horse is already out of the barn and standing in the checkout line. But there's something we can do about stores that open on Thanksgiving. We can avoid them.

No, the earlier shopping times shouldn't be banned by law. No, stores are not obligated to stay closed in order to honor some hoary old notion of Thanksgiving as a time where one communes with family, shovels in the yams and spends the rest of the day metabolizing a masticated fowl-wad in the La-Z-Boy.

No, there's nothing wrong with you if you want to shop after the dishes are done; some people are just like that. Bouncing with energy, keen to finish Christmas before the last piece of Halloween candy is consumed, delighted by the prospect of 15 percent off Martha Stewart Country Home Weevil-Proof 300-count duvet covers.

On the other hand, would it just kill you if the malls were shuttered for a day? Would it seem unbearable to think that the grate has temporarily descended over the Gap's front door, and will not rise until the cock crows Friday morn?

Once we're all good 'n' comfy with stores opening late on Thanksgiving to push Black Friday into Super-Black Pre-Friday Deal-o-Rama Orgy of Bargains (supplies are limited), then we approve of the day when the mall never closes on any holiday.

Every counter is staffed with someone staring ahead with grim contempt, thinking how the family's having bird and wassail at home, forced to wait in an empty store for someone to wander up and buy some shoe trees. Would you like the receipt in the bag or folded into an origami swan and handed to you on a plate? Because I've got the time for that.

Christmas is next, you know. It'll take some clever advertising to soften us up -- say, a commercial with the three guys on camels en route to Bethlehem. Melchior says, "I forgot to stop and get some myrrh. You guys know if there's any place open?" Mall logo, voiceover: It's wise to shop at the Special Pre-After-Christmas Sale.

A compromise: They can have New Year's Day. Really, no one cares if they're open New Year's Day; it's the least impressive holiday of them all, and the fact that it's one of the days where the mall is verboten is like France having a seat on the Security Council.

Bottom line: When I was growing up -- a phrase that usually precedes some gauzy, nostalgia-sodden recollection that ignores all the boredom, angst and petty strife of childhood -- there was something unique about the days when the world shut down and we all stayed home. A reversion to pioneer times. Monopoly and puzzles. Couldn't call your friends for a run to Embers because Embers was dark. The whole world hit the PAUSE and MUTE buttons for just one day.

I suffered, and I don't know why you can't, too.

jlileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858

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