All was silent. No one else moved, spoke, or even breathed, for that matter. They all just stared at the locked automatic sliding doors with this sort of hungry look on their faces. To be honest, the whole thing kind of reminded me of the piranha tank right before feeding time at the aquarium. But it was far, far worse than your scariest nightmare (like when the pizza station is closed at the Deece). These piranhas were wearing mom jeans, sandals with knee socks and turtleneck sweaters with scrappy cats on them. Yup, it was Black Friday, the day on which we worship the God of Capitalism by sacrificing our earnings and tired souls, and the one day out of the year where supposedly grown adults manage to thoroughly fuck up hundreds of years of evolution in a matter of hours.
Looking around, I almost felt bad for them. Some of these people had been standing outside in a line since 9 p.m. on Thursday night, but I had just sauntered up to the party about five minutes before they began, after rolling out of bed 15 minutes earlier. My hair was piled into a shameless mass on top of my head, I was wearing some baggy sweat pants with a hole in the crotch, and I quickly realized that I forgot to put on deodorant. But, no matter—I wasn’t going to stick around for long.
At the top of the hour, the doors whipped open and everyone stampeded through. Some were hurdling over those who had fallen, while others used the people ahead of them as battering rams to push through to the front. But me, I just strolled along the aisles, sipping on a cup of Starbucks that some lady had dropped while hauling ass for the cookware section. Yes, I came to the store to shop on Black Friday, but not for the half-priced flat screens and food processors that everybody else had in mind. Instead, I was here to pick up some stuff for exam week. You know, a few highlighters, a couple packs of coffee, some boxes of tissues for when shit got too real—the basics. I wouldn’t have to fight anyone for the stuff I needed, but I still would get the discount price; a win-win for the Lightner.
As I shuffled past one aisle, I saw two men beating each other with golf clubs from a set that was marked 75 percent off. In another aisle, I saw a young couple circling an old lady who had been foolish enough to pick up the same bed set that they wanted. “Those sheets aren’t even that cute,” I muttered. I would have stopped to save her, but there was no time; a pack of highlighters was calling out my name.
Then I turned the corner into the food section. It felt as if someone had sucker punched me in the kidney. The aisle was packed with at least two dozen other college kids like myself, clawing over each other to snatch stuff off the shelves. In my naiveté, I had assured myself that I was the only person here who had finals coming up, that I was the only broke college kid who saw Black Friday as the perfect opportunity to stock up on exam week essentials. I realized how wrong I was as I watched two girls scratch each other’s eyes out over a pack of five-hour energy. I realized how stupid I’d been as I stared at some poor kid screaming, “You don’t understand, I haven’t been to a single lecture all semester!” as he tried to fend off others trying to take his Ramen Noodles. With all the carnage around me, going after the grandma with the bed set, or even the guys with the golf clubs, seemed more appealing, because they would only go so far. Yes, they would get pretty heated about the golf clubs. Yes there would be some bloodshed, maybe even a black eye or two, but at the end of the day they weren’t going to outright kill each other. They both probably had families to support, jobs to think about and reputations to uphold.
But these kids, these monsters in front of me had nothing to lose. They had no serious jobs from which they could be fired, and any small amount of reputation they built during the week would be demolished over the weekend. All they needed was something to help them last through exam week. And if I was the only thing blocking them from those caffeine pills, I’m sure that none of them would bat an eyelash before hurling a shopping cart at my head.
As some bulky dude who had at least five inches and 60 lbs. on me began eyeing the Cliff Bars I clutched in my hand, “Let There Be Peace on Earth” droned softly on the store’s P.A. system. Two aisles over, someone let out a primal, blood-curdling screech.