One thing you should know is that I never go shopping on any “Black” day, especially Black Friday. I’m not camping in a parking lot so I can save $50 on a DVR.
I have always resisted the siren call of bargains, calling me to dash my patience and self-respect on the rocky racks of flat-screen TVs, iPhones and game systems.
I’d gladly spend an extra $100 on a laptop so I can walk into a store, point, buy it and walk out faster than a ninja could whack you with nun chuks and be out the window in his black pajamas.
So the first few times my wife asked if I would go out on Thanksgiving night to get a $158, 14-foot trampoline replete with protective mesh netting, I just laughed.
“Think of the odds,” I thought.
The call of the bargain
However, deep in the recesses of my mind, greed began taking hold. I recalled how much we paid for a similar trampoline years ago. It now could be declared a health hazard, but back then it cost nearly three times that much. Huh.
And my 9-year-old loves playing with his friends on it. It’s a great way to get a noisy, runny-nosed gaggle of urchins out of the house and away from lamps, the piano and the dog’s tail. Sure, it’s hard on the old knees, when he asks me to jump with him. But it’s something we do together, and I dread the day he stops asking.
But me? Shopping on Thanksgiving? Perish the thought.
Then, my wife pulled out the big guns.
“I guess I’ll just go myself. A woman struggling with a large box through a crowd, and alone in a dark, secluded parking lot late at night.”
She didn’t put it that way exactly. She didn’t have to. I knew what she was doing. It worked anyway. I hate that she can do that.
Wading into the fray
So, I found myself at Walmart Thanksgiving night, snagging a parking spot roughly five times farther away from the store than my own home. I began my trek across the parking lots, and figured I was near Green Bay’s Lambeau Field. I thought I spotted frozen tundra.
Finally, I walked into the store and found that apparently everyone in the downtown area after the World Series game 7 had come directly to this Walmart and stayed. There were tens of thousands of people everywhere: clogging aisles, standing on carts, pressed into clothing racks.
Trampolines had to be in sporting goods way at the back. So, I waded through a sea of humanity, touching people I did not want to touch. Inspired by my journey through Green Bay, I took Vince Lombardi’s advice and ran to daylight when I could find a semi-empty aisle.
I practiced a swim move, shedding blockers so that even Reggie White would be envious.
I was impeded as some aisles were closed off with yellow police tape, as though it were a crime scene. Judging from the news the next day, it’s a possibility. Actually, most people were very patient and relatively nice.
Finally I arrived in sporting goods and spotted the gun guy, always the most knowledgeable person in the store. I swam up to him and asked about the trampolines.
“They’re in Blimpies,” he said. “We cleared them out and put big ticket items in there.”
A rookie mistake. I had walked, shimmied and swam past Blimpies on my way in. I had thought of asking someone where to go, but I was unwilling to show weakness, fearing the crowd might turn on me savagely. It cost me about 15 minutes.
Little did I know that was a crucial 15 minutes.
Hope springs eternal
I did the human sea swim all the way to Blimpies, where the guy pointed me to a line that wound its way through clothing racks. I steeled myself for a wait. By now the trampoline had become my version of a Red Ryder BB gun.
My line mates and I began talking. They had seen two women up ahead apparently cursing at people who tried to get by them.
We shared a superior feeling of contempt. We had been polite and even moved coat racks for people trying to get to the checkout counter.
Finally, I was third in line when the woman behind me said she hoped they wouldn’t run out of ping pong tables.
“You don’t have to worry about me,” I said. “I’m getting a trampoline.”
The woman ahead of me turned and said, “You want a trampoline? I just heard there’s one left and the people in front of me are getting one.”
Panic clutched at my chest. I managed to take it calmly. Maybe she’d heard wrong. Soon, I was at the front.
“Trampoline?” I asked, trying to summon hope.
“Naw, the people two ahead of you got the last one,” said the Walmart guy who had directed me to the line.
I screamed internally. Outwardly, I was stoic.
As I picked my way out, climbing over some carts to get to the exits, I got an image of a hunter returning to his hungry family with no food.
Three days later, my wife bought a trampoline online for $80 more than the one at Walmart. I figure I’ll forgive her sometime after the post-Christmas shopping season.