This year, it truly was black, when a Wal-Mart worker was trampled to death at a store in Long Island. The crowd waiting to get in at 5 a.m. (estimated at 2,000 people) literally pushed their way into the store, taking the doors off their hinges. (They were chanting "Push the doors in," according to the linked story.)
Store employees, for reasons known but to them, to God, and possibly to the store's management, tried to form a human chain to hold back the restless crowd. They failed, and 34-year-old Jdimytai Damour died in the stampede as the shoppers rushed to grab whatever they could lay hands on. Police officers trying to resuscitate him were also stepped on, as the crowd refused to leave the store even after learning that a man was dead. Four shoppers, including a woman eight months pregnant, were also injured.
For what? $1.99 plastic crap from China that will probably cause some kind of illness if your kid happens to put it in his mouth? A $20 DVD player that will probably break within a year or two of purchase?
Madness. I boycotted Black Friday--I bought nothing yesterday, nothing whatsoever. Not even online. (Though I did buy many of my Christmas presents this morning that way.) My folks and I had an errand to run yesterday morning, after which we opted to go out for a late breakfast at a nearby restaurant. It was packed to the walls, and the parking lots were overflowing, doubtless due to its proximity to a fairly large shopping center with quite a number of major retail outlets in it--but this was at a quarter to eleven in the morning.
For the life of me, I will never understand the attraction of shopping. It's something I do reluctantly because that's how I get the things I need, but it's certainly not anything that I enjoy. (Though if I can do it online, that's not nearly so bad--since I don't have to waste any gasoline, I don't have to get dressed, I don't have to fight traffic or hunt for a parking spot, and I don't have to endure the ghastly "holiday" music that most malls and stores play, or the throngs of people in them.) I would enjoy it quite a bit less if I had to get up at the arse-crack of dawn (or before) to go do it, and then had to stand in a long line in the freezing late-November cold just to wait for the store to open, on the off chance that I might be one of the lucky handful of people to grab one of the cheap items featured that day.
I'll spend a few bucks more and do my shopping at a time when it's convenient for me (or I'll do without), thanks.I'm also saying "no" to manufactured need. I know what I need to survive, and I know what I want to make my life happier, more secure, or more interesting--and none of it is anything that anyone is advertising on television, online, or in the media. I don't need jewelry, a new car, or a $20 DVD player. If I want a DVD player (or need a new one, should my current one break down), I'll evaluate my options and get one that has the features I want at a price that I consider reasonable. I'm not going to rush right out and buy one, and I'm certainly not going to take the first piece of cheap crap that some retailer is trying to move off his shelves to make room for even cheaper, crappier merchandise.
I don't need an iPhone (my cellular company doesn't support them, and the ones that do, I don't particularly like), or anything truly technological. I would like a new digital camera, simply because the one I have, while serviceable and cheap, really limits the kinds of photos I can take--and I'm discovering that this is beginning to be a problem, since I seem to be getting better at photography and would like to do more of it, if I had tools with which to do so. But here, again, I'm not going to buy the first piece of crap I see--and certainly not just because it's on sale for not a lot of money. That's an argument against buying, in my book. I know what I need to have in order to be able to do even some of what I want, and I know it doesn't come cheaply. So I'll save my pennies and nickels and dimes, and when I have enough money for what I think I need, I'll look around and see what's available for the money I have to spend--as and when it's convenient for me.
Or take the Wii. My mom won one from a local store awhile back as part of an event she'd been invited to. My folks had played around on the ones their grandkids have and thought they were OK, but it wasn't anything they'd ever thought about getting for themselves--and neither my sister nor I either had one or thought they might like one.
Now that we've all had a chance to play around with it (we took it with us to my sister's place for Thanksgiving), we're all of opinion that it's pretty cool. I think my sister might like one, and I think she might get herself one, if there's one still to be had in the continental United States. (Apparently there's some kind of huge run on them this season, due to a pending patent issue. Not really sufficiently interested in looking up the details.) Mom wants some more games for it, and has put a few on her Christmas list. At breakfast yesterday, she asked me if I was thinking about getting one for myself. (Possibly sounding me out as to whether I'd want one for Christmas.) I told her that I'd thought about it, but figured it would only be another distraction from getting work done around the house or on my courses (as if I needed another!), and that if I really felt a need to play, I could always come over and use hers.
I'm sure there are people in the world who would brand me as a heretic and a Philistine for even daring to have such thoughts, but they can go screw for all I care. I've lived this long without a Wii in my life; I feel quite confident in my ability to go on living without one. (Books, now, or music, those are different things altogether!)
It's been suggested that my shopophobia is because I have a Y chromosome, but I'm not buying it. Counterbalancing that is the fact that, as a gay man, I'm supposed to be absolutely nuts about fashion and shopping and all that guff. File that next to the homosexual agenda I never got from the Faggots' Union, I guess. I know men who love to shop, and women who hate it--I don't think there's a gendered inclination at work here. And I do like buying nice things for people I care about. What I object to is the idea that I have to be told what those "nice things" are by people whose sole object is in driving up their profits and making me want stuff that I have no need (or use) for, and who want me to buy it on their schedule, on their terms. No, thanks.