Requiem for Black Friday



By Les Linz

At 18 years of age, she weighed in at 90 pounds, with a massive height of 4’10” (According to her, the only time she ever saw 4’11” was on a ladder).

It was the mid-sixties and she risked life and limb working the Chicago Goldblatt’s cosmetic counter at State and Van Buren streets. The risk was present any time a sale was to start.

She and co-workers would hug the walls adjacent to the front doors, fearful of being trampled by the stampeding crowd coming at them with sales fever in their eyes, their only defense a line of gun-toting security matrons with a powerful resemblance to Mamie Eisenhower.

Department stores were known for “bargain basements,” where deeply discounted goods could be found on their lower floors-Goldblatt’s broke the mold.

With wonderful snack counter smells wafting through the air, the store’s proprietors disbursed the inexpensive goods throughout the brick and mortar mammoth, so consumers would race to and fro to find the unbeatable deal, long before the Black Friday term became associated with annual savings, which did not happen for another 15 years.

Here we are nearly four decades into the regularly held event, and yet another rite of passage faces imminent extinction, thanks to Covid-19/coronavirus. Since this Gross National Product staple is about to be, at the very least, severely disrupted (if not disbanded altogether), I propose the marriage of two tried and true American traditions-Black Friday, and Thanksgiving family get-togethers.

In order to help keep friends and family more comfortable during this daunting time, some things need to stay the same. BEGIN by sending out Thanksgiving meal invitations in January, your guests will instantly recognize the similarity to getting Christmas propaganda in September, and relish the familiarity. Conscientious host that you are, attendees will learn that doors open at 5 a.m. and stay open until midnight.

TWO WEEKS BEFORE: Install emergency lighting, and place exit signs at all doors for that retail store feel. Likewise, apply arrows of blue masking tape on your floors showing which way to the kitchen, and more importantly, the bathroom. Put an aluminum bar across the back door, saying, “Alarm (as well as you) will sound should you exit door with severe gas, which is by all means, an emergency.” (For extra fun, put a similar bar on the back of your bathroom door, too, with a sign that simply reads, “Emergency exit. Alarm will sound,” and see who after four glasses of wine, stays in there all night for fear of making a spectacle).

When my daughter and I went to our one and only daddy/daughter Black Friday event at Walmart one Thanksgiving, we noticed uniformed police together in groups throughout the store. As it turns out, they were needed, and it was good to know they were there.

Thus, ONE WEEK BEFORE, invite law enforcement to sit outside your home, just in case a ruckus arises — they will be that much closer to other area homes in the event other neighborhood celebrations prove trying as well.

24 HOURS BEFORE: Do not sleep for 24 hours. Leave all lights on at all times. Get as many people as possible to park in front of your house, so guests will need to hunt for a spot — they are so used to that.

DAY OF: Ring a handbell as guests arrive, standing next to a red kettle. Tell them the money helps defray the meal cost, and as such will feed a salivation army. Explain how the virus has meant a lack of available workers both to prepare turkey for market, causing a rise in prices for both the bird of fame, and also the antacids that grace their goody bag. As a potential bonus for you, advise they are invited to drop gold Krugerrands into the cauldron. That should hopefully “ring a bell” or two as well.

Assign a hat check as “customer service” —preferably someone you like to yell at, one who thrives on abuse — that way, they will not be disappointed.

Before proceeding to food and games, consider a couple of further practices.

While ordering a Christmas gift online, make sure to gently shove a fellow family member and pretend you’re both groveling over the last available item that has been drastically reduced. Note to self: Police are outside.

Additionally, grab a family member, pretend they’re a stranger, and talk about, politics, the economy, and how many wooly earthworms you did or didn’t see so far this winter, and how that may impact the cost of sweaters not made by alpacas (Of course, if he or she is a family member and still a stranger, discuss Aunt Sally, Uncle Bill, and how the cost of toothpaste has changed dramatically over the past several years).

Now it’s time to eat.

Chik-fil-A would tell you, “You live in Indiana — the least you could do is offer your guests some Perdue.”

Chicken or turkey or any other main course, you want to be vigilant in helping keep familial health optimal, so social distancing will be strictly observed.

Be aware that this may cause a problem. When someone says, “Please pass the mashed potatoes,” grabbing a glob with gloved hands and throwing it at your guest’s face so that upon the spud’s landing, said guest’s face looks like the Close Encounters of the Third Kind mountain, is not a great idea. Note to self: See first note to self.

And now, a game, before the get-together ends.

Split your family group up into two evenly divided teams, put one roll of toilet paper in the middle of the room, and then tell them it’s the last one left. Say, “Go,” and watch the fun unfold before your very eyes.

And just in case the police have already been called away to another location where family games are being played, stand at the ready with recently retired crowd-loving, gun-toting security matrons from Goldblatt’s-it will undoubtedly be their finest hour.

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