Sorry for the unannounced hiatus Friday. I was having a birthday. (Yes, Mindy and Vince, I got the e-cards. Very amusing.) It was a birthday made more marvelous by the brief visit of John and Sam, aka my tech guy and his wife the archaeologist, who came through en route from here to there on one of their many travels. (They live in Atlanta when they aren’t putting miles on their Explorer.)
This makes approximately the 20th time they’ve visited since the last time I visited them. I think I owe them one.
But their visits here are always so pleasant. That’s one thing about old friends; you just get each other. On Friday, we went first to lunch at a Mexicantown taqueria, then to John King Books, then to Pewabic Pottery, which strikes me as just about a perfect day. I am a pretty cheap date (mainly because we only bought one little Christmas ornament at Pewabic).
My gifts this year included a ball of kitchen string (private joke), a knife sharpener, a cheap paperback of an old Martin Cruz Smith book I haven’t read and the new Rodney Crowell CD. I can ask for nothing more.
But now it’s Sunday, time to plan the week ahead and look over the week just left behind. I see Lance briefly made Memeorandum for his post on Black Friday in his part of the world, which was pretty much the way it was in many other parts of the world, at least those with Wal-Marts:
Yesterday, before dawn, when the sensible Whos down in Whoville were still asnooze, the valiant, the thrifty, the brave, the desperate, the greedy, and the addicted to shopping, lined up outside stores and malls across America, visions of bargain-priced laptops and exorbitant but rare Xbox 360s dancing in their heads. At a Wal-Mart near here hundreds gathered behind a rope waiting anxiously until a clerk pronounced the Christmas season underway with, according to one shopper, these festive words:
“On your mark. Get set. Kill each other.”
What followed, Lance reports, was much of what made the Friday-night highlight reel on the TV news here — rampaging crowds trampling women, security guards kicking the crap out of line-jumpers, the usual Christmas cheer. I was interested to note that clerks at Lance’s Wal-Mart actually stood on counters and threw boxed electronics into the crowd. I don’t know if this was out of fear of being trampled, the way you throw meat at a hungry beast, or if it was just some smartass “kill each other” trick to get the proles whipped up.
Regular readers know I’m no fan of Wal-Mart, although I don’t get frothy about it; my feeling is, if you’re looking for bullies in the world of business, Wal-Mart has plenty of company, company that likely includes many others I do business with. I knew nothing of this the first time I entered a Wal-Mart — I just thought the stores were crummy and cheap-looking. I didn’t start hating them until they ran that commercial about the old man who simply loves shucking and jiving as a Wal-Mart greeter in his blue smock. The things I’ve learned about the company have not disabused me of my feelings, but these day-after-Thanksgiving shenanigans are something else, and the company should have to answer for them.
Note this line from the story in Lance’s local paper, the Times-Herald: The crowd rushed to the back of the store, hoping to snatch up what customers called a dismally scarce supply of cheap laptops, portable DVD players and cell phones.
“Dismally scarce” — that’s the key. I don’t know how limited quantities have to be before “limited quantities” becomes an outright lie and “availability compares to that of winning Powerball tickets” is closer to the truth, but I suspect these Black Friday sales push it as far as it can go. The whole thing is a trick to get the cash registers jingling early and get the news cameras rolling. And call me a mushy old liberal, but I don’t blame the pushers and shovers as much as I blame Wal-Mart, for the same reason I think drug dealers are worse than drug users. Who should know better? Everyone, but especially Wal-Mart. Wait until someone gets seriously hurt in one of these publicity stunts. Just wait. If I were a personal-injury lawyer, I’d be carpet-bombing that crowd with business cards. If ever there was an attractive nuisance, this qualifies.
I think I’m feeling a bit testy because a freelance job I was gunning for fell through today, one that would have solved my cash-flow problems, provided a new challenge and been kind of fun, too. I broke with my usual policy of never getting my hopes up, perhaps because I’m still capable of being seduced by encouragement like, “You sound absolutely perfect for this.” Oh, well. I’m taking this as a sign that another project I was considering, one that would have been back-burnered indefinitely if the first thing had come through, is meant to be. Nose back to grindstone. Tomorrow is another day.
And how can one feel blue when the living room now contains the magnificence that is…the Barbie tree: