Well, I finally did it. I’ve been avoiding it for years, but this year special circumstances eliminated the usual excuses. I went to an early day-after-Thanksgiving sale. My wife had targeted some Christmas presents she felt were worth pursuing; my daughter had to be at work between 4:30 and 5:00 AM, so I was up; and I had to work at 7:00 so there wasn’t much to be gained by going back to bed. I sighed and remembered a quote from the great philosopher Red Forman of That ‘70s Show: “Being a man means doing a lot of crap you don’t want to do”.
So we were at Wal-Mart shortly before 5:00, along with a significant percentage of the area population. Happily the store doesn’t actually close, so there was no standing around outside waiting for the chance to trample a little old lady (or be trampled by one; some of them can really move, especially under those circumstances). Although there was a certain herd mentality that was a bit unseemly, it was actually quite civilized for such a large number of undoubtedly sleep-deprived people. The aisle traffic was aggressive, but not rude. Only the areas around electronics and the $2 DVDs were really jammed. Wal-mart had employees handing out certain high-demand items (32” flat-screen TVs seemed to be the star attraction; I saw several carts with 2 or 3) rather than just allowing grab-and-tackle, and most of the other sale items were in sufficient supply that fisticuffs were unnecessary. There were some hardcore shoppers (we overheard someone talking about having been at ShopKo and Toys R Us in Rapid City at midnight), and quite a few multi-shopper expeditionary forces communicating by cell-phone while fanning out to various sections of the store, but in general it wasn’t that much worse than other busy days I’ve seen there.
Of the items on my wife’s list, only the microwave oven was a possible problem, and it turned out to be on a side aisle and unmarked, so once we located them procurement was easy. I suspect people thought they had already been snapped up. I had considered checking out the $200 e-machines laptop, but it looked like they were nabbed at the start (later I found out you needed an advance ticket to get one), and even at that price it would have been a budget-buster right now.
We got what we wanted and into a checkout line ahead of most of the rush, and were out the door and home by about 5:45. On the way home we drove past the mall, where most of the stores were opening at 6:00 (although I heard JCPenney’s had opened at 4:00 and I don’t know about Kmart). I imagine many of the people we saw at Wal-mart would go there, but I was done and happy to be so. I compare the experience to my recent root canal; not as bad as I had heard it could be, but something I hope to avoid repeating.