Commentary 30 Nov 2012 03:41 pm

Paint it black

Next year, let’s just call it Black November and be finished with it.

I mean, really, retailers started Christmas pitches in September this year, and Santa, elves and tinsel have shared shelf space with jack o’lanterns, American flags and Hallmark-style pictures glorifying the genocide of Native Americans ever since, depending on whatever “minor” holiday was in vogue while the Christmas carnival of capitalism (to borrow a headline from the New York Times) rolled on.

It would be more honest to forget other holidays altogether and celebrate Christmas all year long — Fourth of Christmas July and Valentine’s Christmas and Memorial XMas and the 12 Labor Days of Christmas and so on, ad nauseum.

This year, retailers steamrolled right over Thanksgiving to get to Black Friday, our new secular celebration, with some stores opening Thanksgiving morning and then closing, only to open later on Thanksgiving night and then closing so they could open again before the chickens — but after the turkeys — the next day.

And, hey, I’m just as guilty as the next guy. My wife and I were out Thanksgiving night, when I thought that maybe only a few dozen other stalwart, nigh-near heretical souls would eschew the hypnotic glow of televised football to sully the memory of the feast day by shopping. Surprisingly, we were two of thousands who did the same thing.

There we were, outside the local Big Box in a line that stretched sinuously down the sidewalk, across an access drive and into the strip mall next door. My wife, naively thinking that management would let valued customers wait inside the building before taking our money, didn’t bring a coat, so I gallantly offered mine, making a cacophony of chattering teeth the soundtrack for the 50-minute wait.

Once we were granted access to the showroom by off-duty police officers who acted as though they’d rather be raiding a neighborhood crack house instead of maintaining law and order among value-hungry hordes, we found ourselves waiting in still another line.

Make that two lines. My wife went in one direction for the cheap blu-ray player, while I took up residence near the instant potatoes, behind 200 or so other people waiting for the cheap TVs.

That’s where I met Flatulence Man, who must have devoured some bad Butterball earlier in the day based on how he used a sales circular to fan his deadly fumes throughout the aisle.

“Better stay back,” he warned, after a particularly loud blast. “I’m blowin’ ‘em out.”

Meanwhile, his partner, Motorized Scooter Woman, zipped in and out of line to pick up more bargains. She returned once with barely enough room to stay on the scooter. FM dutifully stacked it all in his cart.

Somewhere in the second hour of waiting, FM and MSW began squabbling about his selfishness. (Other customers were handing him items they didn’t want — a GPS unit and some walkie-talkie-looking things among them. I got into the spirit myself and gave him a pair of portable DVD players just to see if he’d take them. He did.)

As the line began to move, a guilt-stricken FM divested himself of merchandise like a stripper removing unwanted clothes. He handed some items to unsuspecting store clerks and dumped others on the floor and shelves. Nothing appeased Scooter Woman, though, who angrily revved off to parts unknown, leaving FM one person short for the two TVs he wanted.

Somewhere in there — maybe between the stale turkey farts and the malfunctioning scanner in Checkout Lane 20 that made checkout last another hour — my Christmas spirit died. Not that I had much to begin with.

I’m sure a lesson can be found about conspicuous consumption, how we Americans — many of us, anyhow — allow ourselves to be treated like cows in a slaughter chute to save a few bucks on junk we don’t really need or want just because Big Business has successfully preached the Gospel of Greed and converted us to the Church of Consumer Science — can I get an amen? — or how we should protect the sanctity of Thanksgiving and refuse to shop on that day.

But, frankly, I’m too tired from all that line-waiting and box-carting and spending to be too profound.

All I can say is that once I was back in the parking lot, I looked up to heaven, shook my fist at the glowing neon of the Big Box sign and swore, “Never again.”

Until next year.

chris.schillig@yahoo.com

@cschillig on Twitter

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