One time, I headed out to the King of Prussia Mall at 4:00 in the morning on Black Friday. Why? First off, I was nineteen and a total, naive idiot. Also, Victoria's Secret had advertised a free goodie bag to the first 100 customers. Like, a real bag, filled with lip glosses and moisturizers and who knows what else? It was a secret. Turns out that Victoria's secret was some travel sized hand lotion and a zillionth of an ounce of perfume. The bag was cheaply made and had Heidi Klum's face on it...not really inconspicuous, which is sort of my style. However! To be considered one of the first 100 customers, I did purchase a sweet pair of striped flannel pajamas that I still wear to this day.
While the bag has now fallen apart, the free gifts scraped clean from their plastic prisons, and the pajamas washed and dried so many times that they are several inches too short for me, the memories remain. Yes, I had great joy going shopping that morning at the butt crack of dawn. By myself. Fighting hordes of people who actually had a "gotta get this" list. Finding parking at K.O.P. and hiking it in the cold a.m. to find out exactly which entrances we could be herded into and at what time.
No - what really sticks out to me from that day is that I would be damned before I ever did it again.
But what can one do? Time and tide wait for no man, and I can't magic the world from Thursday to Saturday. So this year, I attack this darkest of days from the opposite side of what feels like battle lines that have been drawn. This year, I work in retail. It's not the first time...I've worked at the thrift store before on Black Friday, but at the kid's store. It wasn't terribly crazy. I also worked at Nordstrom for Black Friday and that was effing nuts. A few espressos and thirteen hours of commissioned pay later, I was really feeling the Christmas spirit.
And now, I'm girding my loins for Black Friday at the thrift store flagship. I hope it's going to be wild. I dreamt all day today of moving furniture out the door all day. I fantasized about a totally empty store come Monday (when I would get a break from selling people stuff long enough to hop online and take advantage of Cyber Monday). I've psyched myself up for a long day of yelling, getting yelled at, and having a blast as customers dissect my store searching for what we have that was exactly what they wanted.
I...am tired. And I've made myself a little sick throughout the years of this mad dash toward Christmas. Twenty four, and I find myself jaded about the holiday season. It's usually easy for me to slip into a cutting, sanctimonious view of the commercial Christmas. First, because it runs in my family - we love a good Jesus-centric holiday. Second, because I'm enough of a hipster to revile those overstimulated, holiday lemmings that jump off the cliff of sane behavior into the abyss of material Christmastime. But this is different. This year, I scoff not, if only because I am an exhausted little cog in this machine and too tired to muster even a passing snigger for consumers.
Here is a New Year's resolution a little early. It's not really relevant past Christmas, but...whatever. Anyway, here it is: I'm not picking a side anymore. I'm not going to adopt a consumer attitude or a sales attitude at Christmas. Both of them make me want to pass out at the end of the day. I'm going to buy stuff when I need to buy stuff. I'm going to sell stuff to people who want to buy stuff. But there's no sense in thirteen hour days. There's no respite in focusing on numbers and countdowns and percentages. And there's absolutely no comfort in spending time and money by myself.
You know what I need? A vacation. Mmmm....yes, maybe to some tropical paradise. I'd even settle for a city in some chilly mountains and then a 16 hour bus ride to another city, this time next to a canal. Oh wait! I'm doing that! That's right, ladies and gentleman, I am going on vacation and skipping ONE WHOLE WEEK of the lead up to Christmas. I'll be in Costa Rica and then traveling with awesome friends to Panama City to run in a relay team for the Panama City Marathon. I will return on December 6th, hopefully with some cool stories, a calmer attitude toward the holidays, and if I'm lucky...a little sunburn.