I could hear the cheers emanating from M&T Bank Stadium at 10:30PM when I walked out of my house on Thanksgiving. The volume and intensity indicated an imminent victory for the Baltimore Ravens over the San Francisco 49ers. My Bay Area roots kicked in, just for a second, and I felt a brief pang of disappointment. Then I remembered that even people in San Francisco don’t care how the 49ers do, and I started to worry more about the stadium traffic that we might face on our way to Target for door busting Black Friday deals.
Descending my brick stoop into the cold, crisp evening air, I met my neighbors Ashley and Joe in front of their house. My fiancée, Kristi, chose not to join us or the throngs of other obsessed deal hunters, deciding instead to get a full night’s sleep before charging into the Towson Mall the following morning.
Just a few hours before, Kristi and I had Thanksgiving dinner with Ashley and Joe, hosted by Joe’s mother in Fairfax, Virginia. A few hours before that, we had all met at Ashley and Joe’s in pajamas for crème brûlée french toast casserole, fruit salad, and Cristal mimosas all while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Friend overload, you might think to yourself, and that thought may have crossed Ashley’s mind as she saw me emerge from my house wearing a cardigan with leather elbow patches and a straw fedora, ready to wade into the onslaught of crazed bargain shoppers. The elbow patches, I explained, were to keep me from tearing my sweater in the event that I had to start getting physical while I was locked in a battle royale with an old lady over the last Dyson vacuum that was going for $150 off retail price.
But, far from feeling overloaded by my next door neighbors, I felt it necessary to cram as much quality friend time in as possible before they moved to Connecticut later that weekend. Both Kristi and I were upset at the prospect; it’s difficult to find good friends, and it seems even more difficult in Baltimore. Not to say that there is anything particularly wrong with my fellow Baltimoreans, just that I find that I have very little in common with most of them. Joe and Ashley, on the other hand, were recently displaced from Chicago, newlyweds, just about our same age, and pretty close to us on the political spectrum. Compared to my other neighbors, the ones I wrote about in an earlier post, these two were godsends.
Piling into their Subaru, the quintessential yuppie-bargain-shopper-mobile, we set off South on the MD-2 to the Target in Glen Burnie (first mistake). Both Joe and Ashley were convinced that the midnight deals wouldn’t be that big of a draw (second mistake). I tried to tell them that we were going to be standing in a line stretching a good distance around the Target parking lot. My premonitions were met with incredulous laughter and disbelief. Only after we circled the parking lot at Best Buy to get a feel for the crowds we would be facing, did they start to get worried. The line, rivaling that of a Harry Potter or Twilight premier, minus the wizards capes and vampire teeth, was a bustling mass of human discontent.
I looked to Ashley in the back seat, who shook her head and said, “No. No, we are not waiting in that line.” “No,” I replied, “we are waiting in that line,” and I pointed to the Target line, that looked even longer, weaving around the corner, along all of the unlit, sensibly un-open stores.
We hopped out of the car, not wearing nearly enough layers to be standing outside in late November. Luckily, Ashley had three scarves in the back seat of the car to bundle herself. Joe and I, unlucky souls, were forced to fend for ourselves. One moment of relief came as target employees, identified by their red polo shirts, magnetic name tags, and walkie talkies (undoubtedly ready to implement crowd control techniques on par with, if not surpassing, those of the NYPD clearing protestors from Zuccotti Park) began to hand out peppermint flavored Luna bars. Soon after, some not so official looking young men came walking by attempting to sell the tickets that Target employees were handing out to the first people in line for high value items. In an effort to prevent potentially life-threatening human stampedes, Target handed out tickets, redeemable for an opportunity to purchase 40″ flat screens for $300, Amazon Kindles for $89, and other uncharacteristically low prices. We waved off the hooligans scalping tickets. Our real plan here was to purchase outdoor fire pits. Target was selling foldable, metal fire pits for just $20, marked down from $60, and we needed two of them.
To be continued…