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Over the Highway and Through the Mall…

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December 2, 2011 by Alison Grisham

I’d like to say that I didn’t participate in the craziness of Black Friday, that I wasn’t really trolling the aisles of Wal-Mart on Thanksgiving night, looking for a deal. I’d like to say that, but — with my luck — I was seen diving into a rack of hard-to-find PS3 games, and I’d be caught lying in print faster than Oprah could say James Frey.

So I admit it. I went Black Friday shopping, right alongside the hordes of bargain hunters and raving lunatics you might have seen on tv, and the truth is, I liked it.

I’ve never been able to take advantage of America’s biggest shopping day, because I’ve always spent Thanksgiving in a remote location, where the closest store was 30 minutes away as was, sadly, a Phillips 66. So unless my kids were crossing their Christmas fingers for black coffee and Slim Jims, I was out of luck.

Now that I’m sticking closer to home for my turkey and sweet potatoes, I get to take advantage of all those holiday shopping deals that put overpriced electronics within reach. So my husband and I spent days before Thanksgiving poring over ads, researching online deals and making various shopping lists based on priority, variable change and least chance of death by trampling.

When all our research was complete, we finally settled on a destination. It was a store that opened at midnight on Thanksgiving and had been advertising TVs and gaming consoles at unbeatable prices. We knew we’d have to get there early. But with my husband being from Ireland, and me being inexperienced, we didn’t know how early would be early enough. After a lot of thought I decided that 5 or 6 p.m. would probably put us among the first 20 people in line and give us the best chance at those doorbuster deals. As it turned out, I knew as much about Black Friday shopping as I did about my other hobby, astrophysics.

On Wednesday afternoon, at around 1 o’clock, my boss took out his cell phone to show me a disheartening sight. It was a picture of the store we’d chosen, with five tents, and at least 20 folding chairs, already set up outside in a line. I couldn’t believe it.

Call me crazy, but waiting in line, in a cold parking lot, for 36 hours is closer to being mentally imbalanced than I want to come. I wouldn’t commit to that plan if they were giving away magic carpets and pixie dust, let alone just tv’s and toaster ovens.

So with no plan at all, we decided to just enjoy our Thanksgiving and let the deals fall where they may. By 9:30 p.m., after all the turkey had been eaten and the dishes put away, we meandered over to Wal-Mart, with no real expectation of finding any bargains at all. But guess what? We hadn’t missed a thing. It was crazy and crowded. But it was also fun. We ​​chatted with people, found a sense of camaraderie with other shoppers, and even got to take advantage of all those deals we didn’t think we had a chance of getting. I was surprised at how kind and helpful most people were. But most importantly, I was glad to see that I didn’t have to give up Thanksgiving just to get a jump on Christmas.

I don’t know what bargains I’ll find next November, or exactly where I’ll find them. But I’m pretty sure I’ll be in the “black” for a long time to come.

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