Friday, November 24, 2006

Jeff Goes Shopping

This morning I participated in the national consumer madness of Day After Thanksgiving Shopping. While I had been out shopping on what people in retail call 'Black Friday', this was the first time I showed up at a store for their special early-opening riots. This is the sort of mob action I normally avoid like the plague, but I had a strong motivator this year. In my household we place ironclad limits on what can be spent on each family member's Christmas gift.* This system is part of an effort to avoid bankrupting ourselves at the holidays. But I hit a snag when I started pricing this item: GIANT ROBOT WOOKIE!  This toyline is mad genius.That's the Star Wars Transformers Millenium Falcon/Han Solo Mech & Chewbacca Mech! And it is the perfect gift for my nephew. Under normal, rational pricing schemes this toy is just over our limit. But this morning one store in town was selling these babies for 60% off. I had to get up at 5am and wait almost an hour in a byzantine line that only leads to the real checkout line, but it was worth it to get Cameron the awesomest toy I can afford to buy him.

So I was waiting 50 minutes in this infernal line that starts in the toy department, loops around the back of the store, veers off into the 6th dimension, and reappears in normal spacetime in the vicinity of the actual checkout line. When I'm by myself in situations like this I don't normally make smalltalk with other folks in line. I just shutup, patiently wait my turn, and keep an eye out for an opportunity to somehow game the system by jumping lines or other trickery. I'm not a pusher or a line cutter, but if I see a non-rude way to circumvent waiting in line I want to be ready to get in on that action.

While I'm quietly waiting the woman standing behind me in the queue is talking loudly on her cell phone. Loud enough to annoy the crap out of me even over the din of a thousand bargain-mad customer clawing their way through the aisles and each other. This woman apparently called someone for the express purpose of bitching about the long, slow line. I help my peace, but I strongly felt the urge to turn around and yell 'Hey, lady! Did you not know how holiday shopping worked the day after Thanksgiving?' But I didn't. Who knows how long we were going to be in line together? I didn't need to be making any enemies.

A few minutes into this woman's long and boring tirade, the group immediately in front of me starts up a conversation. Turns out the lot of them are acquaintences sharing a cart. The subject of their chitchat is the bone marrow transplant and chemo regimen of the hubby of one of the group. Talk about putting everything into perspective. Behind me Madame Loudmouth is bellyaching about waiting in line for a bit, while in front of me a woman is bravely explaining the ongoing efforts to save her husband's life.

*This limit system in no way applies to my daughter. Because she's my little sweetpea and I say so.