Waiting in line with all the other crazies.
I’m not a Black Friday shopper so when my sister-in-law asked me to brave my hometown Walmart Thanksgiving night so she could score a discounted ping pong table I thought she might be losing it. And then I was crazy enough to accompany her. Who’s crazy now?
Would we need a bodyguard? Would we get in a Jerry Springer style scuffle over $4 board games? Would we get in and out of the store without getting a black eye?
I was prepared for full-on craziness but when we pulled into the bustling parking lot it wasn’t quite as insane as I’d expected. There were no police cars patrolling the parking lot or people spilling out the door. I would soon realize this was because all the crazy was INSIDE THE STORE.
People were already clogging the aisles with shopping carts spilling over with toys, electronics, and children. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to take my kids to Walmart on a normal shopping day, much less Thanksgiving night when everyone is sugared up and exhausted. I saw one woman pushing an ENTIRE PALLET, a virtual flotilla of Walmart goodness, from a battery operated kiddy jeep to flannel lounge pants. It was like that scene in the Grinch Who Stole Christmas when the Grinch’s sleigh is spilling over with gifts. Imagine Walmart on the busiest day ever times ten. People were bug-eyed with bargain hunting zeal and dressed in their best loungewear (I especially loved the guy wearing a wife beater and blue lounge pants with orange flames.) It was obvious from the looks of most carts that these were serious shoppers who planned on knocking out all their holiday shopping in one night as well as knocking out any uncaffeinated amateur in their path. I gulped. These people could smell my fear. I was an amateur among diehards.
Operation Procure Ping Pong Table began. We were like a special forces shopping team decked out in jeans, running shoes, and carrying cute purses. We moved swiftly toward the area of the store which was supposed to feature the ping pong table. She and I both spotted the pallet with the ping pong table in a large box. Let me repeat THE ping pong table. There was only ONE LEFT and there were still about 45 minutes left before the official 8 p.m. markdowns kicked in. Obviously we weren’t the only shoppers who’d arrived early to swoop up the 8 p.m. deals. I envisioned myself doing a Kung Fu Panda type back flip and flying over the crowds, taking out a velour jogging suit clad grandma to snag that sucker. In reality I over politely nudged my way through the bottle necked aisle, stood by the box and tugged meekly on the sleeve of the Walmart employee who was squeezing her way past me toward the $10 pogo sticks.
The ping pong table was in a box as big as a barn door. Two employees lifted it and placed it precariously on my sister-in-law’s shopping cart which I fully expected to collapse under the weight. We slowly moved through the crowds, pushing it like a giant barge, so we could locate a few more items.
Operation Procure Ping Pong Table was a success. We were in the store for about an hour and checked out in under 25 minutes. Don’t they present presidential medals of honor for that sort of thing or, at the very least, a lifetime supply of lounge pants?