Thursday, November 27, 2008

Black Friday Diary

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

I'm taking the day off, but for anyone planning to do some Christmas shopping tomorrow on "Black Friday," I decided to post my diary of the day from a couple years ago. I met lots of interesting people:

Tired, money-saving columnist for The Dallas Morning News

I never thought I would be a Black Friday doorbuster. Getting up before 5 a.m., battling for a parking spot, zipping through department stores for 50 percent off sweaters and a complimentary snow globe …

The early birds can have that. I’ll gladly be the sleeping rooster and pay full price later.

So what the heck am I doing in my car, heading toward the mall on the day after Thanksgiving? Being a dedicated humor columnist, that’s what. I’m determined to give all you sleepyheads, who would never sacrifice four hours of sleep for four bucks off a Chicken Dance Elmo, a feeling of the most frenzied shopping day of the year.

Also, Target has Candyland, Chutes and Ladders and Cootie for the rockin’ price of $3.88. My wife tells me these are on my 3-year-old son’s Christmas list, so maybe I can get a jump on shopping while I put together this diary:

6:05 a.m.
My wake-up call comes earlier than expected when I hear my 5-month old son crying upstairs. I’m awake, and some stores are already open, so I guess I should just get out of bed and get my day started.

I pull into a parking spot at my first destination, Super Target. In the spot next to me is a car with a back seat filled with two crock pots, a 20-inch pure flat TV/DVD combo and four poinsettias. Looks like an open invitation to a Johnny-No-Good burglar, or perhaps a father who has discovered all of the Candyland games are already gone.

I found the games in the back of Target, along with several thousand people trying to get down the same aisle. I’ve got Candyland in my hands, but I might have to use it as a weapon to get to a checkout line.

I’ve made it to my second destination, the Stonebriar Centre megamall in Frisco. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is playing over the speakers, but the sign says Santa won’t arrive until 9 a.m. The big guy gets to sleep in.

More than 100 people are lined up at Victoria’s Secret, which opens at 8 a.m. Among them is Tina Riner of McKinney, who lets me in on the secret: free supermodel totebags for the first 200 customers.

According to a sign in the front window, shoppers can also find “sexy gifts inside!” The sign seems unnecessary, considering it’s posted in front of leggy mannequins wearing red-and-black thong underwear and pink Santa hats.

Restoration Hardware is open, but apparently nobody has noticed. Or maybe bath fixtures are still not a hot Christmas item.

I see the first person running –- a true sign that the shopping pace is quickening. The man runs for about 100 feet, then slows to a walk to catch his breath, then runs again. It looks like Thanksgiving dinner has taken a toll on his shopping stamina.

The calm in the storm of shopping is the children’s play area, where I find Judy Dixon sitting next to a stroller and several bags of shopping loot. Dixon, who flew in from Las Vegas to spend the holidays with family in McKinney, is watching her three granddaughters while their parents shop.

“We’ve been up since 4 this morning and it’s been unbelievable, honey,” she tells me. “We went to Wal-Mart first, and there were some fights over plasma TVs.”

Hmm … maybe I need to check out a nearby Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, Dixon doesn’t have any boxing gloves to offer me.


People are standing in line to get free goodie bags from the Stonebriar Centre information counter. Two teenage boys open their bags and realize they’ve received coupons to Glamour Shots. They are actually excited. I wonder if Glamour Shots will feel the same way.

Santa has arrived, and immediately the line to see him is halfway to Timbuktu. But there’s good reason why. This Santa is as authentic as I’ve ever seen, from belly to beard. He’s even fanning himself, so maybe he really is from a much colder climate.
After getting the OK from Santa’s manager – yes, Santa has a manager – I get to interview the big guy before the stream of kids begins. It turns out that this Santa is the only one Stonebriar has ever hired, and I’m right about his authenticity. “I can’t go anywhere without kids coming up to hug me,” he says. “At Wal-Mart, going out to dinner, everywhere … I get recognized.”

After interviewing him, I ask for his name so I can quote him. But I add that he doesn’t have to give me his name if he doesn’t want to spoil the mystery. He says he doesn’t mind, then leans over to me, and says very deliberately.

“It’s Santa Claus.”

Hey, I’m a believer.

I have found the youth of America. They are packed into an American Eagle Outfitters store that is pounding rock music and attracting teenagers like ants to a half-eaten donut. One of the boys has piercings in his eyebrow and lip, putting a thought in my mind that proves I’m getting old: I would rather eat an ant-covered donut than do that to my face.

Bath & Body Works is filled with people spraying samples on each other, creating a perfumed smell so strong that I might cough up a bag of potpourri. I head for a sign that says “perfect gifts” and find Island Hot Spot warming body scrub with coconut extract and sugar. Sounds delicious.

I notice that there is a Starbucks on each level of the mall. It’s good to know that, if an acute caffeine deficiency should strike, I won’t pass out on an escalator trying to get a fix.

I’m walking into the final stop of my shopping day: Wal-Mart Supercenter. There are no fights, no scuffles, not even a shouting match. Everything seems downright civil throughout most of the store.

As people clear, I can see that Hurricane Consumer has hit Wal-Mart hard. Things have been pulled off the shelves and replaced in the wrong spots. A Desperate Housewives Dirty Laundry Game is next to a Sesame Street 2-in-1 Giggle Guitar. I assume that was not intended.

Walking to my car, I realize I’m being stalked for my parking spot. I briefly consider taking bids on the primo spot I lucked into, but then I decide that’s not the polite thing to do.

And who needs money? I’ve already saved four bucks on Candyland.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Thanksgiving disaster story

A couple of years ago, Yahoo! asked readers to tell Martha Stewart their worst Thanksgiving disaster. Allegedly, Stewart would be reading these -- and probably laughing at our ineptitude. There was one that I thought was particularly funny.

It was posted by Kathleen K. (I cleaned up the grammar a bit):

My worst Thanksgiving disaster just came last year at my daughter’s. I was taking the turkey out of the oven when, unbeknownst to me, some grease had fallen on the floor of the oven. This caused a ball of flames to shoot out and caught my hair on fire.

Wow! That would be a great story as is, but there’s more:

Everyone came running into the kitchen and my son in law, who was standing next to me at the time, starts hitting my head to put the flames out. Well my dear husband decides that a bowl of water would do the trick and proceeds to pour it all over me. I ran upstairs in tears and with the help of my daughters was reassured it would be OK. After 40 minutes later, Thanksgiving dinner was served and all had a great time. Even me with my singed hair smelling horrible.

And finally, mom passes a lesson on to her daughter (and perhaps a guilt trip):

This could have all been prevented if my daughter had used a roasting pan instead of these tin things that you throw away after using. These can be very dangerous when there’s as much grease that a turkey has.

I hope your Thanksgiving goes a little more smoothly.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Jet pack and the Royal Gorge sounds dicey

A daredevil hopes to propel himself across a southern Colorado canyon using a jet pack powered by hydrogen peroxide. Sounds pretty daring, but here's the really scary part:
Eric Scott tells the Rocky Mountain News he's never traveled as far as he wants to Monday - 457 meters.
This seems like a good way to try it. If you run out of power, you're only about 300 meters above the ground.