It is the day after Thanksgiving and I woke up before the daylight. I finished Lisa Ko’s The Leavers from bed sometime after six, ruminated in my feelings about the book until some light peaked through our frosted balcony door and decided to get up and push through essay number 40.
Early morning is my favorite time of day because most of the city is still sleeping. I’m sure there are other freaks like me who wake up at the crack of dawn on day they don’t have to be at work, but we are socialized to keep it down for the sake of the night owls that are just reaching the early stages of deep slumber. The city that never sleeps breaks character between five and six in the morning. There is no rumble of construction, no honking of horns and little pedestrian traffic. I revel in the quiet.
Today’s particular kind of quiet is the quiet before the storm called Black Friday. Today’s quiet is the calm-faced demeanor of a suicide bomber before he puts his plan of chaos and destruction into action. Extreme, I know … but did YOU know that there is a website keeping count of the deaths and injuries incurred on Black Friday (www.blackfridaydeathcount.com). I’’ll save you a trip. 10 deaths and 105 injuries since 2006.
I’m not sharing any of this to try and guilt you about your decisions to partake in the national “holiday.” I legit have no authority with which to try and guilt you. I stopped writing this essay at least three times to check a Black Friday deal from my phone. I am no different from you, believe me.
I took some time to research where Black Friday originated this early morning, accompanied by the soft morning light creeping into my bedroom. I’d heard the urban myth that it originated on the auction block. That slaver traders used the day after Thanksgiving to “sell slaves at a discount to assist plantation owners with more helpers for the upcoming winter.”
Besides there being little to no actual historical evidence of this origin of Black Friday, I have a hard time believing it for two reasons.
1) I don’t believe that the little soul possessed by those who sold slaves would allow them to discount human lives and cut into their profits to provide “helpers” to plantation owners and
2) Why would anyone need MORE labor during the winter? This isn’t Game of Thrones. Plantation owners weren’t fighting off an army of white walkers. Someone, please correct me if I’m wrong, but the cotton-picking season is over sometime in November and I don’t know any crops that are harvested in the Winter. How much firewood do you really need to cut and store and how many hands does that take?
My research revealed that the more likely origin of Black Friday was in The City of Brotherly Love. The Philadelphia Police Department coined the term in reference to the mayhem of pedestrian and auto traffic in the downtown shopping area that was taking place the day after Thanksgiving. It was the day that no Philly cops wanted to work. The day the veterans tried to pass off to rookies.
The term started to become popular in 1966 after a story was published in an ad in The American Philatelist. Retail stores took the term and used it as a sales marketing initiative in the 1980’s since most people were already taking off from work on Fridays to start their Holiday shopping early.
Black Friday sales have come a long way since the sixties and eighties. The rise of technology and social media has increased sales along with fatalities. The viral videos of human stampedes, reminiscent of the wild beast stampede in the Lion King, make me queasy. The violence and blatant disregard for human life makes me question humanity. When did “saving money” by charging totals on credit cards that most Americans don’t pay in full and end up paying interest on anyways become more valuable than a living, breathing human being.
And even still … I’ve been looking through my e-mails since last night and seriously considering partaking in the event. I live one train stop away from Queens Center Mall. I could be in and out before the throngs of people, I reason with myself. I could get some Christmas gifts out of the way and buy myself those jeans I really need/want.
What can I say? These marketing teams are earning their salaries. That and I’m just as flawed and imperfect as the crowd of people who marched over that pedestrian as they rushed into Wal-Mart.
I want to say with conviction that I am going to boycott all the major retail stores this Holiday season and take no part in the commercial campaign that keeps people in debt. I want to believe that I am going to adhere to a strict budget that falls within my means and will prioritize small businesses owned by POC and WOC when I do partake in holiday shopping.
There is an ideal I would like to live by.
And then there is the reality. I probably won’t go to the stores, not because of altruism. But because I don’t really feel like being around a human stockpile. I’ll probably stay in, read and write some and distract myself with social media, eventually giving in to the guiles of one or two online sales.
The drilling rumble of construction is coming in through the window and reverberating off my bedroom walls now. There is a single car honking in the distance. The city is waking and the people are stirring. Prepare yourself or take cover.
***This is essay 40 in the #52essays2017 challenge created by Vanessa Mártir.