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Posted at 1:06 PM ET, 11/26/2010

Black Friday and how not to restart the economy

By Alexandra Petri

It's Black Friday!

"When the going gets tough," Robin Williams once quipped, "the tough go shopping."

This seems to be the unofficial motto of Black Friday in these trying economic times. To me, the name "Black Friday" sounds like some sort of shoppers' Sabbath. But I decided to brave the wilds of the day's shopping to attempt to learn more about this "stimulating activity" that is going to "put us back in black" and "rescue the economy." Or something.

Based on all the accounts I had read and watched on television, I assumed that Black Friday was essentially a live version of the Will Smith vehicle I Am Legend, in which Will Smith is the only human being left alive and has to fight off hordes of swift-moving zombies, set in a mall. Once I arrived in a store, dozens of people would stampede over me in order to get to the discounted plasticware. As I would try to get up, people would mistake me for a new line of animatronic butler and try to carry me to the register, in the process tearing off several of my limbs. In order to defend myself, I would have to hunker down in the area where very few things were discounted and hiss and wave fire whenever anyone approached.

I wanted to report on this phenomenon, but I wanted to keep all my limbs -- they make it a lot easier to pursue my hobbies, jogging and winning contests for who has the largest number of limbs. So I tried to find a place where I would have a fighting chance against the tide of rabid, vicious shoppers determined to get our economy back on track.

I picked D.C.'s Georgetown Mall. This area seemed safe, largely because this upscale shopping area is full of J. Crews, and I knew that J. Crew was not having a sale. Besides, how rabidly excited can you get about, say, a cashmere v-neck sweater, or a skirt that depicts preppy staples like fox hunts on one side and silent, judgmental family meals on the other? It seemed as though it would not be particularly dangerous there, largely because the wealthy shoppers would not want me to bleed on their fur coats.

So, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as a squirrel that might have some sort of health condition, I bounced into the Georgetown Mall. It seemed as though it had been largely deserted since the 1950s.

I wandered into a Party Store. The only other occupant of the store was a single employee. He looked sad and lonesome. "It's Black Friiiiiday!" I hollered, deciding to try the traditional Black Friday greeting, and brandishing my traditional Black Friday shopper's machete in a friendly gesture of fellowship. "How's it treating you?" "We don't really get any traffic," he said, looking a little unnerved. "Can I help you with anything?" he asked. "No," I said. "Black Friday!!!!"

I tore off to Banana Republic, where decorum was fast unraveling. The store had put up some signs that all purchases before noon were 40 percent off, and already the line snaked around the whole store. People were sweating profusely. I picked up two sweaters in order to appear inconspicuous and slipped into the line. In front of me, people stared at their watches. "It's Black Friiiiiday!" I hollered. They inched away from me. "How's it feel to jump-start the economy?" I asked. They laughed nervously. I sensed that someone elsewhere in the line might be reaching for her traditional shopper's machete in order to neutralize me with it, so I whirled and hissed at her.

People were becoming alarmed. I casually leaned against a sweater rack and watched the clock. Suddenly, it became very important that I purchase these sweaters, which were currently available for a mere 60 percent of their original cost. My palms began to sweat. "It's hot in here," the woman in front of me in line said. I nodded. I didn't want to get dragged into a conversation that would force me to humanize her, in case we ran out of time and I had to stampede her to reach the cash register.

I pictured how much richer and more beautiful my life would be with those sweaters. My coworkers would respect me more. My friends would stop asking me to help them move. My parents would see me as a full adult. Eight minutes. "Mine," I mumbled, clutching the sweaters. "Black Friiiiiday!"

I began randomly elbowing people to the ground, just to get in practice. "The sweaters!" I shrieked. "Six minutes!" I sensed that someone behind me was trying to perform an exorcism on me and spun my head 360 degrees to discourage him. People grasped their children in terror and began inching out of the store."You're missing out on the deals!" I shouted. "More deals for me!"

At this point security personnel approached and strongly suggested that I leave the store. "This is an economic miscalculation!" I shouted, foaming at the mouth. I landed on the sidewalk with a thump. In the glass doors behind me I could see my reflection.
Had I become the monster that I had feared?

I am writing this from Barnes and Noble! I assume that any minute, vast swarms of people will arrive to tear the racks limb from limb in an effort to find the secret, hidden Nook deals. In case they do, I am in a corner, armed to the teeth, and ready to defend this position to the last man.

What can I say? Anything to jump-start the economy!

By Alexandra Petri  | November 26, 2010; 1:06 PM ET
Categories:  Epic Failures, Petri, Worst Things Ever  | Tags:  Black Friday, law of the jungle  
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Next: Mulligans: Obama courts gentler opponents


Your Black Friday primal screaming done the ComPost proud. But on Black Friday, "blogging while shopping" can be as dangerous as texting while driving.

What if the crowd had stampeded and turned you into squished hummus while you were off in bloglala land?

And you're lucky you weren't at Walmart, where you might have died under the feet of crazed Walmart shoppers!

Posted by: divtune | November 27, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

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